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Little Girl Gets Windpipe Made from Stem Cells

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A little girl born without a windpipe became the youngest patient to benefit from experimental stem cell treatment after doctors grew a new trachea from the stem cells taken from her hipbone.

Hannah Warren, just 2 years old, was born in South Korea unable to breathe, swallow or eat on her own. Doctors warned her parents that she would likely die. Only about one in 50,000 children across the world are born with the windpipe defect.

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Hannah spent her whole life in intensive care with a breathing tube on her mouth. Her parents found an Italian doctor based in Sweden, Dr. Paolo Macchiarini, who pioneered the technique of using stem cells to make other body parts, but they were unable to pay for the cost of the surgery at his center in Stockholm. A pediatric surgeon at Children’s Hospital of Illinois in Peoria stepped in to help bring Dr. Macchiarini to the United States, where the Children’s Hospital waived the cost. As part of OSF Saint Francis Medical Center, the Catholic Peoria Children's Hospital strives to provide charity care and champion stem-cell therapy that does not involve human embryos. 

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The windpipe was created by extracting cells from Hannah’s bone marrow and then seeding them into a plastic scaffold before implanting the trachea during a 9-hour surgery. And while Hannah is still on a ventilator, her doctors say that the grown organ appears to be working. Hannah has since had her very first taste of food: a few licks of a lollipop.

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