Windpipes are not like kidneys or livers; they aren’t among the organs that routinely show up on the organ-transplant list. But thanks to stem cells, patients in need of a new trachea can grow their own. Researchers at the Karolinska Institute fashioned only the second man-made trachea, which connects the nose and mouth to the lungs, using synthetic microfibers and a bath of stem cells removed from the bone marrow of a patient whose own trachea was destroyed by cancer. In the first case, a donor trachea from a deceased individual served as the scaffold for a Spanish woman’s stem cells. In the latest advance, the scientists used a bioengineered matrix to seed the cells. Such techniques represent the future of regenerative medicine, in which stem cells of all kinds, including those made from patients’ own skin cells, can serve as the basis for generating any type of cell or tissue that needs to be replaced or repaired.
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