Two-yr-old breathes freely after windpipe implant

Two-yr-old breathes freely after windpipe implant

Medicine: Youngest to get a bio-engineered organ,Hannah no longer needs a tube to breathe. She faces long rehabilitation process


Using plastic fibers and human cells,doctors have built and implanted a windpipe in a two-and-a-half-year-old girl — the youngest person ever to receive a bio-engineered organ.

The surgery,which took place on April 9 here at Children’s Hospital of Illinois,is only the sixth of its kind and the first to be performed in the United States. It was approved by the Food and Drug Administration under rules that allow experimental procedures when otherwise the patient has little hope of survival.

Dr Paolo Macchiarini,a specialist in the field of regenerative medicine who developed the windpipe and led the complex nine-hour operation,said the treatment of the Korean-Canadian toddler,Hannah Warren,made him realise that this approach to building organs may work best with children,by harnessing their natural ability to grow and heal.


“Hannah’s transplant has completely changed my thinking about regenerative medicine,” said Dr Macchiarini,a surgeon at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. He said he would like to proceed with a clinical trial in the US,something that critics of his approach have called for.

Hannah was born without a windpipe,or trachea — an extremely rare condition that is eventually fatal in 99 per cent of cases — and had lived since birth in a newborn intensive care unit in a Korean hospital,breathing through a tube inserted in her mouth. Because of other developmental problems,she cannot eat normally and cannot speak.

Nearly three weeks after the surgery,the girl is acting playfully with her doctors and nurses,at one point smiling and waving goodbye to a group of visitors. Dr. Mark Holterman,a pediatric surgeon at the hospital,said that Hannah was breathing largely on her own,although through a hole in her neck,not through her mouth yet. “She’s doing well,” he said. “She had some complications from the surgery,but the trachea itself is doing great.”

Dr. Macchiarini said Hannah was befuddled when she realised that the mouth tube was gone and she could put her lips together for the first time. The toddler faces a long rehabilitation process as she breathes normally for the first time. Doctors hope that with additional operations she will be able to eat through her mouth and speak.

As the girl grows,she will also need a bigger windpipe. Dr. Macchiarini estimated that she might need a new one in four years.

The girl’s parents,Darryl and Young-Mi Warren,said that shortly after Hannah was born they had been told that there were some treatments for her condition,but that the odds of her living past age 6 were very slim. “We didn’t want Hannah for just another couple of years,” Warren said. “We wanted her for the rest of our lives.”

Case file

Two-year-old Hannah Warren is the youngest person ever to receive bio-engineered organ.

The windpipe — trachea — has been made using plastic fibres,human cells.

Previously,Hannah used to breathe through a tube inserted in her mouth. Now she breathes through a hole in her neck.