Northern Ireland

Ciaran Finn-Lynch's windpipe transplant success

Ciaran Finn-Lynch
Image caption Ciaran Finn-Lynch received the new windpipe two years ago.

Doctors say a County Monaghan teenager who made medical history by using his own stem cells to rebuild his throat is making a successful recovery.

Ciaran Finn-Lynch, 13, from Castleblayney, made medical history as the first child in the world to undergo the pioneering tracheal transplant.

He was born with a condition called Long Segment Tracheal Stenosis which meant he found it difficult to breathe.

Doctors say he has grown 11 centimetres in height and returned to school.

The surgery was a desperate attempt to save his life after earlier treatment failed.

Since the operation, Ciaran has been able to live a normal life free from medication to prevent his immune system rejecting the transplant.

He underwent the procedure at London's Great Ormond Street Hospital in March 2010.

It involved seeding stem cells taken from Ciaran's bone marrow into the collagen "skeleton" of a donor windpipe stripped of its own cells.

Once the structure was implanted, the stem cells were allowed to mature in his body, rather than the usual laboratory "bioreactor".

These cells successfully grew and divided to create a new organ.

A follow-up report published in The Lancet medical journal on Thursday said the new organ had strengthened and showed no signs of rejection.

Martin Birchall, Professor of Laryngology at University College Hospital Ear Institute, was a member of the transplant team.

He said explained how unique Ciaran's case had been and how it would pave the way for others.

"Since the treatment plan for Ciaran was devised in an emergency, we used a novel mix of techniques that have proved successful in treating other conditions," he said.

"To minimise delays, we bypassed the usual process of growing cells in the laboratory over a period of weeks, and instead opted to grow the cells inside the body, in a similar manner to treatments currently being trialed with patients who have had heart attacks.

"We need more research on stem cells grown deliberately inside the body, rather than grown first in a laboratory over a long time.

"This research should help to convert one-off successes such as this into more widely available clinical treatments for thousands of children with severe tracheal problems worldwide."

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