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Cancer Patient Gets First Totally Artificial Windpipe

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Cancer Patient Gets First Totally Artificial Windpipe

Cancer Patient Gets First Totally Artificial Windpipe

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MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

The patient suffered from cancer of the trachea. NPR's Richard Knox has the story.

RICHARD KNOX: As the tumor grew it was getting harder and harder for him to breathe. Doctors have successfully transplanted windpipes taken from organ donors. But Andemarian's doctor, Tomas Gudbjardsson, said that wasn't an option for him.

TOMAS GUDBJARDSSON: That often means a long wait. In this case, his symptoms were already that prominent that something had to be done.

KNOX: Gudbjardsson remembered reading about an Italian surgeon who's trying to create organs in the lab.

PAOLO MACCHIARINI: My dream was always to transplant the safest and best windpipe.

KNOX: They added a cocktail of growth factors to transform the stem cells into cartilage, as in a normal windpipe. A couple of days later, the synthetic trachea was ready to replace Andemarian's diseased windpipe. The operation took nearly 13 hours. That was a month ago.

MACCHIARINI: Well, he can breathe, he can cough. He has all the functionality of a normal windpipe, and he's without tumor. So that's a great thing for him.

KNOX: It was difficult to breathe before?

ANDEMARIAN TEKLESENBET BEYENE: It was difficult, yes.

KNOX: And now?

TEKLESENBET BEYENE: Now it's better. I'm not exactly 100 percent, but I am good.

KNOX: Richard Knox, NPR News.

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