Science, Tech & Environment

Zimbabwe's water woes

This woman is a 30 year old mother who until recently suffered from severe tuberculosis, which had nearly destroyed the airway which leads to her left lung. But today she said she's feeling much better. She received an operation which was the first of its kind in the world. In essence, scientists created a new windpipe by using her own cells. They started with a donated trachea which came from a donor. The woman's body would've rejected any direct transplant, so scientists bathed the trachea in a chemical solution to remove every single cell which belonged to the deceased woman, which left them with dead scaffolding. Then in the lab, the trachea was brought back to life using the woman's stem cells and that allowed her body to leave the trachea alone when it was transplanted into her body. The tissue engineering was done at a lab in Bristol, England and the main doctor there says this is a breakthrough. Now these are not embryonic stem cells, the kind that have caused controversy. These were adult stem cells which came from the woman's bone marrow. This tissue engineering research wonders whether the stem cells were even needed. He says the grafted wind pipe could've been brought back to life with health cells from the woman's existing airway. Another central question is whether scientists can do this procedure without a donor, where you could regenerate a damaged windpipe with stem cells. The ultimate aim of this is to be able to create whole body parts in the lab, and this is a step in that direction.

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