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Tracheal transplant

Tracheal transplant

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Executive Summary

Until now, transplants of the airways have not been performed because they would require the use of huge doses of immunosuppressive drugs. However, this pioneering procedure used tissue-engineering techniques to develop a biologically-treated organ with which surgeons were able to replace a damaged bronchus without the need for immunosuppressive medication.

Quick Detail

Innovation Owner:
Robert Chesters
Development stage:
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Project Detail

This revolutionary procedure relied on advanced stem cell technology (using adult as opposed to embryonic stem cells) to produce a tissue-engineered airway suitable for clinical transplantation without the need for heavy immunosuppression.

The technique involved removing the cells from a donor tracheal segment to leave a connective tissue scaffold which was then re-seeded with cells from the recipient (chondrocytes on the outer surface and epithelial cells on the inner surface). The graft was incubated in a specially designed bioreactor. Once the recipient’s cells were attached to the scaffold, it was able to be transplanted. At three-month follow-up, the patient – a thirty-year old woman with a collapsed lung, the result of long-term tuberculosis - was well, with a functioning airway. Since the airway had all donor cells removed, immunosuppressive treatment was not necessary and there was no evidence of rejection.

The procedure was performed in Barcelona by an international team from the Universities of Bristol, Barcelona, Milan and Padua, led by Professors Martin Birchall and Paolo Macchiarini of the Universities of Bristol and Barcelona respectively.  The team believes the new procedure, which has been widely hailed as a major medical ‘breakthrough’, paves the way for many more such operations in the future.Most recent windpipe transplant success in UK  - http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/8576493.stm


Key Facts


  • Clinical outcomes

Healthcare Areas

  • Acute Care

Health Problems

  • Cancer
  • Respiratory
  • Eyes and ENT


  • Domestic