Andemariam Teklesenbet Beyene really needed a new windpipe because of his late stage tracheal cancer. If he didn't get one, he would die. So doctors grew one for him from stem cells harvested from his hips. This synthetic windpipe was then transplanted into his neck and accepted by his body.
Today, he has made a full recovery and is expected to be discharged the Karolinska University Hospital, which performed the historic transplant.
The University College London and Harvard grew the synthetic organ. They first took Beyene's stem cells, which are undifferentiated building block cells that can turn into many different specialized cells of human organs.
Then, they seeded the cells in scaffolds and manipulated their development with chemical cues. The end result of this skillful guidance is a synthetic trachea that saved Beyene's life.
Scientific advancements in biology have made it possible for scientists to effect and manipulate many of nature's biological processes.
Using stem cells, scientists have grown just about every human organ imaginable. Beyene's operation made headlines, however, because it's the first case of successfully transplanting a synthetic organ on a live human body.
The manipulation of natural biological processes extends beyond medicine.
Scientists, for example, are taking out cells from muscles of animals (like pigs) and attempting to cultivate edible meat (like pork).
These scientists hope to one day provide meat in a way that's cheaper, more efficient, more controlled, and in a way that's more humane towards animals.