Sherry had just had surgery for fibroids and now couldn’t talk. She had been reduced to a whisper when she woke up. She thought it would pass but she went to her Ears, Nose & Throat doctor and a Gastroenterologist and they came to the same conclusion. Her windpipe had been damaged and new surgery would not help. An attempt at stretching the windpipe open did not help.
She was a young woman and embarrassed. She could not converse with anyone. She had a little trouble swallowing and would often cough and sputter when she drank cold liquids. Her life was a mess. Her fiancé seemed OK, but she worried he would leave her if she was “damaged merchandise”. Sam, however, just wanted to see if there was any solution. He researched her trouble and after hours on the ‘net’ he found a doctor in England that seemed to offer a solution.
Dr. Martin Birchall, an otolaryngology surgeon, had come up with his idea of a windpipe (trachea) transplant. A cadaver windpipe would be removed, cleansed and the new trachea would be covered with a patient’s own stem cells gathered from their own bone marrow. The damaged trachea would be replaced with the new one. The body would not reject the trachea since it was covered with the patient’s own cells. No rejection medicine was needed.
After the new surgery Sherry slowly gained her voice back. Interestingly enough, it was not her original voice. It was deeper and raspy but it seemed to improve weekly. She had a speech therapist to help her. The doctors who helped her did not know how her voice would mature—but she could speak! She asked Sam if he minded. He was ecstatic. He said he loved her new voice and was so happy that he cried when she said his name.
Stem cell transplants are now being used everywhere in medicine. Researchers have migrated away from the controversial use of embryos and now are using patient’s own bone marrow, fat cells, skin cells and other organs to find stem cells and then inciting them to grow where the damaged organ is. It is a whole new world that seems to have limitless opportunities for repair of our bodies. Often in medicine, when one organ fails, others will stop functioning and end our lives on this planet. Some stem cell solutions end disabilities like Sherry’s and make our lives richer and more meaningful. Sherry could not stop smiling every time she spoke. She never took any of her God given abilities for granted and decided to dedicate her lift to service to others.
- Stem cells have created a new era in medicine.
- Using stem cells eliminate the problems associated with rejection
- Stem cells can possible eliminate genetic diseases like diabetes, sickle cell, and certain skin diseases.
Macchiarini, P, et al. Clinical Transplantation of a Tissue-Engineered Airway
Lancet 2008; 372:2023-30
www.thelancet.com (Vol 372-Dec 20/27,2008