Nanocomposite polymers enable world’s first synthetic organ transplant

Nanocomposite polymers enable world’s first synthetic organ transplant
Scientists at University College London have designed and manufactured a nanocomposite tracheal scaffold, which has been used in the world's first synthetic organ transplant.

The y-shaped synthetic windpipe was engineered using novel nanocomposite polymers, which were developed and patented by lead researcher Professor Alexander Seifalian, pictured right. A computerised tomography (CT) scan of the patient was used as a guide to create the exact shape and dimension needed. A mould was then made using glass.

When the polymer scaffold had been made, it was taken to the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, where the patient's stem cells were seeded to it by the University's Professor Paolo Macchiarini. The full biological trachea was then grown in a bioreactor - a device designed for the procedure by Harvard Bioscience.

This process meant that the trachea effectively simulated natural tissue and had the same properties as a real trachea. The patient, a 36 year old man who had been suffering from late stage tracheal cancer, is now said to be on his way to a full recovery.

"Professor Macchiarini has previously performed successful transplants of tissue engineered tracheas, but on those occasions the tracheas used were taken from organ donors and then reseeded with the patient's own stem cells, said Prof Seifalian. "What makes this procedure different is it's the first time that a wholly tissue engineered synthetic windpipe has been made and successfully transplanted, making it an important milestone for regenerative medicine. We expect there to be many more exciting applications for the novel polymers we have developed."

Laura Hopperton

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