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Md. Man Travels To Sweden For Life-Changing Medical Procedure

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Mary Bubala joined WJZ in December 2003. She now anchors the 4-4:30...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ)—A Maryland man is the second person ever to receive a revolutionary transplant.

Mary Bubala has more on the man who traveled halfway across the world for another chance at life.

Christopher Lyles, 30, had a cancerous tumor on his windpipe. Now he’s only the second person in the world to be living and breathing with a synthetic windpipe or trachea implanted in him.

“It’s amazing to be that pioneer,” Lyles said. “Right now I am cancer free. I am happily cancer free, so now it’s just the daily routine of getting stronger and getting back together.”

He traveled to Sweden, where Dr. Paolo Macchiarini took out his cancerous trachea and implanted a new one made out of plastic and coated with his own stem cells.

The stem cell technology used in Lyles’ surgery was actually developed here in the United States, in Boston at Harvard Bioscience.

“This really is the culmination of two decades worth of scientific and medical research that has finally allowed the world of regenerative medicine to be robust enough to actually treat a real patient,” said David Green, president of Harvard Bioscience.

Harvard Bioscience crafted a scaffold of Lyles’ windpipe out of plastic and then put it in a bio reactor — that white box where it was mixed with his stem cells. In two days cells start to grow and form collagen on the plastic.

“About five days after the procedure the patient’s own blood vessels have grown back through the scaffold to provide a blood supply for those cells, so it’s fair to call it an organ,” Green said.

And Lyles’ body doesn’t reject the transplant because it’s made with his own stem cells.

“It’s amazing how technology advances and who knows what we will be doing in the next 20 years with regenerative medicine,” Lyles said.

This opens a new world of transplant because there’s no rejection by the body.

For now patients have to travel to Sweden to have this transplant because it is not yet approved by the FDA.

If you’d like more information about the procedure and Lyles’ story or help with his medical expenses, click here.

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