A toddler born without a windpipe received an artificial trachea made from her own stem cells, the first child to receive a tissue-engineered trachea devoid of any donor cells.

Little 2-1/2-year old Hannah Warren spent most of her life confined to a neonatal intensive care unit in a hospital in Seoul, South Korea where she was born.  The surgery was performed at Children’s Hospital of Illinois in Peoria, a small city industrial city with important teaching hospitals located southwest of Chicago.

“The most amazing thing, which for a little girl is a miracle, is that this transplant has not only saved her life, but it will eventually enable her to eat, drink and swallow, even talk, just like any other normal child,” said lead surgeon Dr. Paolo Macchiarini.  He’s an internationally renown expert in of regenerative surgery at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden.

Macchiarini and his team have transplanting artificial tracheas since 2008.  He’s performed similar operations with donor tracheas, but Hannah is the youngest patient to receive an artificial trachea.  And she’s the first child to receive an organ made solely from synthetic materials and her own cells.

The operation is being heralded as a high point in international cooperation to save lives.