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 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, she 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. “She will go from being a virtual prisoner in a hospital bed to running around and playing with her sister and enjoying a normal life, which is a beautiful thing.”
Hannah arrived in Peoria in March accompanied by a medical team and her family: father Darryl, who is Canadian, mother Young-Mi who is Korean, and 4-year-old-sister, Dana.
“All we have ever wanted since Hannah was born was to be able to bring her home and be a regular family. Hannah has been through so much and defied the odds. She is our little miracle,” said Darryl Warren. “Words cannot express our thanks to everyone who has helped make this dream a reality. We know one day soon we will get to make that trip home.”
“It has been a privilege to be a part of this life-changing moment for Hannah and to provide care for her and her family. She embodies what we do for all those who come to us in need and truly allows us to live the Sisters’ Mission,” said Margaret Gustafson, President of Children’s Hospital of Illinois. “Hannah continues her recovery, cared for by a team including pulmonologists, hematologists, intensivists, nurses, respiratory therapists; physical, occupational and speech therapists, and supportive services.”
For the physicians in this case, and the staff at Children's Hospital of Illinois and OSF Saint Francis Medical Center, this history making procedure is an exciting, promising advancement in the field of regenerative medicine.
“Hannah’s case is a great example of how the international community can work together to save a child’s life”, said Dr. Mark Holterman, Professor of Surgery and Pediatrics at University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria (UICOMP) and co-surgeon of the case.
“We are humbled to have been a part of this amazing effort. Advanced pediatric patient care and scientific investigation are at the heart of our work here in Peoria. Hannah is an amazing young girl and our work with her will no doubt go a long way in helping others in the years to come, not only in Peoria but in the United States,” said Dr. Richard Pearl, Surgeon-in-Chief at Children’s Hospital and Professor of Surgery and Pediatrics at UICOMP.
Added Dr. Macchiarini: “The ultimate potential of this stem-cell based therapy is to avoid human donation and life-long immune suppression and to be able to replace complex tissues, and sooner or later, whole organs, with totally artificial lab-made scaffolds and autologous stem cells. We are crossing frontiers with these transplants."
In addition to members of Hannah’s surgical team and staff of clinical caregivers, the following provided philanthropic invaluable support for the success of this groundbreaking surgery:
- Harvard BioScience: Provided the non-absorbable nanofiber tracheal scaffold and the bioreactor which allowed the seeding of Hannah’s cells onto the scaffold.
- Biospherix, Inc: Provided the XVIVO cell incubation and processing system. The XVIVO cell production system is the first and only such system designed for therapeutic cells. Nearly 100 are in use around the world.
- Advanced Center for Translational Regenerative Medicine, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden: Provided pre-clinical and scientific evidence for the stem-cell based technology
- Russian Megagrant Project "Regeneration of airways and lung", Krasnodar, Russia: The young specialists at the Kuban State Medical University contributed to the translational science of Hannah’s transplantation.
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ABOUT CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL OF ILLINOIS:
Children's Hospital of Illinois is the third largest pediatric hospital in Illinois and the only full service tertiary hospital for kids downstate. With 124 beds and more than 115 pediatric subspecialists, Children's Hospital cares for more children in Illinois than any hospital outside of Chicago. Formally established as a pediatric hospital within the walls of OSF Saint Francis Medical Center in 1990, Children's Hospital has over 5,000 admissions; 2,200 newborn deliveries, and 18,000 emergency department visits each year.
OSF Saint Francis Medical Center, with 616 beds and more than 900 physicians, is the fourth-largest medical center in Illinois. A major teaching affiliate of the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria, it is the area’s only Level I Trauma Center, the highest level designated in trauma care. It serves as the resource hospital for emergency medical services for north-central Illinois. It is home to Children’s Hospital of Illinois and the Illinois Neurological Institute. OSF Saint Francis and Children’s Hospital have been designated Magnet Status for excellence in nursing care since 2004.