American girl who received bioengineered windpipe dies

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 09 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 09 July, 2013, 3:31am


A US toddler who in April became the youngest person ever to receive a bioengineered organ has died, surgeons involved in her treatment said.

Hannah Warren, who was born without a trachea, died on Saturday at the Children's Hospital of Illinois in Peoria, where she had undergone the experimental surgery on April 9. She would have turned three in August.

In the operation, Paolo Macchiarini, a specialist in regenerative medicine affiliated with the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, implanted a bioengineered windpipe made from plastic fibres to which the girl's own cells, taken from her bone marrow, were added. It was the sixth operation of its kind and the first to be performed in the US.

The operation had involved surgery on the girl's oesophagus, which never healed properly. She underwent another operation a month ago to correct the problem and died from complications arising from the second operation, said Dr Mark Holterman, a pediatric surgeon at the hospital.

"The trachea was never a problem," Macchiarini said on Sunday. "It was her native tissue that was very fragile." He said he would continue with similar operations, including one he is performing this week in Stockholm. "But all these cases are so complex and so difficult," he said.

Being born without a windpipe is an extremely rare condition that is eventually fatal in 99 per cent of cases. Until this year the girl, whose father is Canadian and mother is Korean, had spent her life in a newborn intensive care unit in a Korean hospital, breathing through a tube inserted in her mouth.

Macchiarini has performed windpipe implants similar to this one. Another patient, an American man who was operated on in Stockholm, died. An Eritrean man has lived the longest, more than 21/2 years since the surgery.