Simply News 3: Own stem cells save woman’s lung

Article source: Yahoo / Press Association.

A woman 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.

Claudia Castillo’s own stem cells were used to create an artificial airway which replaced the bronchus to her left lung which had collapsed after she suffered a serious tuberculosis infection.

The 30-year-old Columbian-born mother-of-two is also believed to be the first transplant patient not to need powerful drugs to subdue the immune system.

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, use them to fashion a new bronchus – a branch of the trachea or windpipe – and carry out the transplant operation.

Without the pioneering operation in June, Ms Castillo’s lung would have been removed by surgeons.

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.

In five years’ time they hope to begin clinical trials in which laboratory-made voice boxes are implanted into patients with cancer of the larynx.

Professor Martin Birchall, a British member of the team from the University of Bristol, said: “What we’re seeing today is just the beginning. This is the first time a tissue-engineered whole organ has been transplanted into a patient. 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.”

Prof Birchall admitted that the decision to turn to tissue engineering to help Ms Castillo was a “leap of faith”. The same procedure had only been attempted on pigs before, but had looked highly promising.

Vocabulary notes

  • organ – an organ is part of the body and has a specific function; examples of body organs include: lungs, heart, liver, kidneys, eyes, ears, etc. Organ also has other meanings including a type of musical instrument and related to organizations. If food is described as organic it means it was grown in a ‘natural’ way for example without using chemical pesticides.
  • operation – an operation is a surgical procedure usually performed by doctors and nurses in a hospital operating theatre.
  • transplant – a transplant operation involves replacing a damaged organ with a replacement usually from another person.
  • airway – an airway in the human body (the windpipe) is a tube from the mouth/nose through the throat to the lungs. The airway carries air and allows people to breathe in (inhale) and breathe out (exhale). Not to be confused with airways in the context of air travel e.g. British Airways
  • patient – a patient is someone who is receiving medical or surgical treatment or consultation. But if we say someone is patient we mean that they are willing tolerate (put up with) irritation without over-reaction or to wait without complaining.
  • drugs – doctors and surgeons use drugs to treat patients and make them better or to reduce pain. Illegal/illicit drugs are ones that are forbidden by law and are often smuggled from one country to another and sold secretly.
  • immune system – the methods used by the body to reject infections and ‘foreign’ tissue.
  • immunosuppressive drugs or immunosuppressants are drugs which surgeons use to ‘persuade’ the body to accept ‘foreign’ tissue, such as an organ transplanted from another person.
  • researchers – a researcher is someone who conducts research, in this case medical research. Scientific research involves experiments, careful collection of data, and the testing of hypotheses or theories hoping to create new knowledge in a particular field.
  • subdue – in medicine, to subdue the immune system means to take action to reduce the body’s ability to reject ‘foreign’ tissue. In other contexts, we may say ‘The police subdued the rioters’. In general, if we say someone is ‘subdued’ it means they are very quiet, sad, and not moving.
  • to fashion – the verb to fashion is a non-medical term and means to produce something by adapting something else. Not to be confused with the noun fashion which refers to styles of clothing that people like to wear. If someone’s dress is said to be fashionable it means that it is modern and people admire that style at the moment.
  • pioneering – leading the way; innovative. A pioneering operation means surgery that is not routine – it is one of the first attempts to use a new procedure or method.
  • transform – this verb means to change something in a big way.
  • admitted – to admit something means to accept it. If someone admits a mistake, it means they agree that they made a mistake. If a hospital admits a patient it means they accept them into the hospital, register them and provide a bed for them during their treatment. Patients who are not admitted may be treated as out-patients.
  • leap of faith – a leap is a jump and faith is belief (often without hard evidence). The set expression a leap of faith means, in this case, that the surgeons were not certain that their pioneering methods would be successful but they hoped and believed that they would be successful either now or later.

This article is reproduced for language learning practice. Copyright acknowledged.