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Published on 19 November 2008

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Transplant a success without drugs

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A Colombian woman is recovering from a successful transplant operation without the use of immunosuppressive drugs because the organ she received was made from her own stem cells.

Claudia Castillo has become the first person in the world to be given an entirely laboratory-engineered organ in a landmark operation that could change the face of transplant surgery.

The 30-year-old’s own stem cells were used to create an artificial airway that replaced the bronchus to her left lung which had collapsed after she suffered a serious tuberculosis infection.

Even though she received no immunosuppressive drugs, so far doctors have seen no hint of Ms Castillo’s immune system rejecting the transplant.

Researchers from the UK, Italy and Spain worked together to grow tissue from Ms Castillo’s own bone marrow stem cells, then used them to fashion a new bronchus – a branch of the trachea or windpipe – and then carried out the transplant operation.

The scientists believe in years to come the same approach will be used to create engineered replacements for other damaged organs, such as the bowel, bladder or reproductive tract.

Professor Martin Birchall, a British member of the team from the University of Bristol, said: “I reckon in 20 years’ time it will be the commonest operation surgeons will be doing. I think it will completely transform the way we think about surgery, health and disease.”

Copyright Press Association 2008

University of Bristol



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