Surgeons replaced the damaged windpipe of Claudia Castillo, a 30-year-old mother of two, with one created from stem cells grown in a laboratory at Bristol University.
Ms Castillo's operation required a section of windpipe from an organ donor as a "scaffold" for the stem cells - meaning the technique will not immediately solve the shortage of donor organs. However, it is hoped that eventually artificial scaffolds can be made which would avoid the need for donor organs completely.
To create the new airway scientists originally started with a donor windpipe which they stripped of all its cells, using a new technique developed by Padua University, leaving just a form of "scaffold" which they then encouraged Ms Castillo's cells to grow around. After growing a 5cm-long trachea in the lab, the scientists then carried out the operation to transplant it into the patient.
Doctors have previously been unsuccessful in attempting to transplant a windpipe from one human to another, because the large amount of immune-system suppressing drugs needed to ensure that the body would not immediately reject the organ. Severe infections, bleeding and tissue death have led to other trachea transplants failing.
"Now, Hank, touch your throat. That tube you feel is your trachea. Think of it as your handle. That thing your thumb is on is your carotid artery. Think of it as your button. I want you to grab the handle, push the button. Can you repeat that, Hank?"
Current Music: Babes in Toyland -- Fork Down Throat ♬