Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Children's Health

Font Size
A
A
A

Doctors Report Historic Transplant in Child

In a Tissue-Engineering First, Doctors Think the Boy's New Windpipe Could Grow

The 'Holy Grail' of Tissue Engineering: Organs That Grow

Ciaran's case, which is reported in The Lancet, is the first time doctors have rebuilt an organ inside the body. Normally, donor organs are washed, reseeded with stem cells, and then grown in a lab until they are ready to be used in a patient. The process takes several weeks.

"We did not have the time to engineer and to culture the cells in a bioreactor because this child needed to have something done quickly. We used the child, himself, as a bioreactor," says researcher Paolo De Coppi, MD, PhD, one of the surgeons who treated Ciaran. "For him, there was no other option."

Worldwide, just 12 tissue-engineered tracheas have been transplanted into patients. Ciaran is the first child to get one. Doctors are watching him closely to see if the new trachea will keep up with his growth spurts. Since he's already shot up more than four inches since the operation, doctors think there's a good chance it will.

"We believe the matrix of the transplant will remodel with time. So it should allow, when the child grows, for the transplant to grow with the child," De Coppi says.

About 3% of babies are born with organs or tissues that are so malformed they threaten the child's life or growth. About 2% of newborns have poorly developed windpipes or lungs.

If tissue-engineered grafts like the one Ciaran has could grow, doctors think the damaged parts could be replaced almost as soon as they're discovered.

"A lot of kids, like kids with heart defects, any sort of structural defect that needs repair, if you do a repair with something that doesn't grow with the patient, you're committing them to a series of operations," Ott tells WebMD.

"So the holy grail of tissue engineering is to come up with something that is so integrated into the human body that it grows with the human body," he says. "That would make a big difference."

1 | 2

Today on WebMD

preschool age girl sitting at desk
Article
look at my hand
Slideshow
 
woman with cleaning products
Slideshow
young boy with fever
Article
 

worried kid
fitArticle
boy on father's shoulder
Article
 
Child with red rash on cheeks
Slideshow
girl thinking
Article
 

babyapp
New
Child with adhd
Slideshow
 
rl with friends
fitSlideshow
Syringes and graph illustration
Tool
 
6-Week Challenges
Want to know more?
Build a Fitter Family Challenge – Get your crew motivated to move.
Feed Your Family Better Challenge - Tips and tricks to healthy up your diet.
Sleep Better Challenge - Snooze clues for the whole family.
I have read and agreed to WebMD's Privacy Policy.
Enter cell phone number
- -
Entering your cell phone number and pressing submit indicates you agree to receive text messages from WebMD related to this challenge. WebMD is utilizing a 3rd party vendor, CellTrust, to provide the messages. You can opt out at any time.
Standard text rates apply

WebMD Special Sections