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Tuesday 20 February 2018

World first for Irish boy as stem cells used in transplant

Patsy McArdle and Colin Gleeson

A 10-YEAR-OLD Irish boy has become the world's first child to undergo a windpipe transplant with an organ crafted from his own stem cells.

Details of the groundbreaking surgery were revealed at a press conference in London at the weekend, but surgeons said they were not at liberty to name the patient.

But details of the boy's identity emerged after his father's family arranged for prayers to be offered at a mass in St Mary's Church, Castleblayney, Co Monaghan, for the success of the operation.

The boy, Ciaran Lynch, is a grandson of famed showband leader Maurice Lynch from Castleblayney who died in 1987.

It is hoped that using the boy's own tissue in the nine-hour operation at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London will cut the risk of rejection.

The world's first tissue-engineered windpipe transplant was done in Spain in 2008 but with a shorter graft.

Doctors say the boy is doing well and breathing normally. Following the surgery last week, Ciaran was recovering at the hospital, but doctors say it will still be a number of days before the success of the transplant can be fully assessed.


He has a rare condition called Long Segment Congenital Tracheal Stenosis, in which patients are born with an extremely narrow airway. At birth, his airway was just one millimetre across.

Doctors had previously operated to expand his airway but in November last year he suffered complications from erosion of a metal stent in his windpipe or trachea.

In order to build him a new airway, doctors took a donor trachea, stripped it down to the collagen scaffolding, and then injected stem cells taken from his bone marrow.

The organ was then implanted in the boy and over the next month doctors expect the stem cells to transform into specialised cells which form the inside and outside of the trachea.

The donor windpipe was treated with a cocktail of chemicals designed to prompt the stem cells to grow into new tissue once inside the boy's body.

The boy's father, Paul, speaking from London, confirmed that Ciaran was still in intensive care. A close family friend said yesterday: "We are now very hopeful the operation will be a success and that Ciaran's life can be saved."

Professor Martin Birchall, head of translational regenerative medicine at University College London, who was part of the team behind the operation, said it was a "real milestone".

"It is the first time a child has received stem cell organ treatment, and it's the longest airway that has ever been replaced," he said.

Irish Independent

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