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A PIONEERING windpipe transplant using stem cells is being hailed a success today as surgeons reveal the new organ is functioning well two years on.

Ciaran Finn-Lynch, now 13, was the first child to undergo such a procedure when it was carried out at London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital in 2010.

Doctors took stem cells from the youngster’s bone marrow and applied them to a scaffold made from donor trachea that had been stripped of its own living cells.

It was the first attempt to grow stem cells in vivo – in the body rather than a laboratory – in a child in an operation of its kind.

Ciaran, from Northern Ireland, was born with long segment tracheal stenosis, which left him with a trachea just a millimetre across.

Since his transplant he has not needed anti-rejection therapy, the new windpipe has strengthened and he is breathing well according to an article in The Lancet.

Professor Martin Birchall, part of the team which performed the operation, said: “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.

“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 being trialled with patients who have had heart attacks.”

Calling for more research, he added: “This should help convert one-off successes such as this into more widely available clinical treatments for thousands of children with severe tracheal problems worldwide.”