In a pioneering, first-of-its-kind-in-the-world operation, an international team of surgeons at Children's Hospital of Illinois created and transplanted a windpipe into a 32-month-old Korean toddler born with a rare, fatal, congenital abnormality in which her trachea failed to develop. During the revolutionary operation, the surgical team implanted a tissue-engineered stem cell based artificial windpipe in Hannah Warren, who had spent her entire life living in a neonatal intensive care unit in a hospital in Seoul, South Korea. Unable to breathe, talk, swallow, eat or drink on her own since birth, Hannah would have died without a trachea transplant. The groundbreaking, nine-hour operation took place at Children’s Hospital of Illinois, part of the OSF Saint Francis Medical Center, in Peoria, Illinois, on April 9, 2013. It is the first time a child has received a tissue-engineered, bioartificial trachea, which was made using non-absorbable nanofibers and stem cells from her own bone marrow. Because no donor organ was used, the remarkable procedure virtually eliminates the chance of her immune system rejecting the transplant. It is expected that in the coming months, Hannah will be able to return home with her family and lead a normal life. “The most amazing thing, which for a little girl is a miracle, is that this transplant has not only saved her life, but it will eventually enable her to eat, drink and swallow, even talk, just like any other normal child,” said Dr. Paolo Macchiarini, Professor of Regenerative Surgery at the Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden and lead surgeon in the case.
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