Earlier this month, 11-year-old Ciaran Finn-Lynch, originally from Castleblaney, Co. Monaghan, was discharged from Great Ormond Street Hospital in London having made medical history, the first child in the world to undergo a trachea transplant in which his own stem cells were used to ensure a donor windpipe would not be rejected by his body
He was born with Long Segment Tracheal Stenosis, which narrows the windpipe. Previous interventions, starting when he was two-and-a-half, had included attempts to rebuild his airway and inserting metal stents. Last November, however, the erosion of a stent caused a ‘massive bleed’, prompting the specialists to look at a treatment using his own stem cells to build up a donor windpipe so as to prevent rejection of it by his body.
The operation, carried out in March, was declared a success when the medical team found that the blood supply had returned to the trachea. Professor Martin Elliott, the leader of the Transplant Team, said Ciaran ‘is a wonderful boy who has become a great friend to us all, and he and his infinitely patient family have charmed us all. … 'His recovery has been complicated, as one might expect for a new procedure, and we have kept him under close surveillance, hence the length of time he has been here. … It is wonderful to see him active, smiling and breathing normally.’
This kind of operation, a donor transplant where the patient’s own stem cells are used to prevent organ rejection, was first carried out on Claudia Castillo, a 30-year-old tuberculosis patient, in Barcelona, Spain in June 2008. Professor Martin Birchall said that the success of that operation left us 'on the verge of a new age in surgical care'.
The Irish Independent reports further comments of Professor Birchall on Ciaran’s operation. He said 'This is a completely new approach … the first time this has ever been done in a child. … He is left with a healthy organ made with his own stem cells which in a way is a kind of miracle.’
To read more and watch a 1 minute interview on Ciaran’s operation by Professor Martin Birchall, Professor of Laryngology from University College London, click here.