Rebuilt organs, from heart to lung, Prof Macchiarini's work
The lists to access to transplants are long and organs available for patients are scarce. Scientists are studying methods to grow organs in the laboratory by rebuilding them starting from stem cells taken from the same patients. Professor Paolo Macchiarini speaks about it in an interview published in the Lancet on 10 March 2012. Macchiarini in the interview states to be a surgeon, who needs to act and to express his beliefs, to help patients with innovative methods. Since 2010 Professor Macchiarini works at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm in Sweden, where he landed after different life and work experiences that led him away from his country, Italy. Born in 1958 in Switzerland where he grew up, he returned to Italy to study medicine at the University of Pisa. Altough his working and education experiences in Italy were not so simple. Professor Macchiarini hasn't found in Italy an "easy" environment but a system that encourages people only if related to politics or children of well known people ( "figli di .."), but not because of the merits. In the interview in the Lancet he explains "I knew that in other countries is not like that, so I left Italy." Since then he has traveled and worked in many countries, the United States, at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, then in Paris, at the Chirurgical Centre Marie-Lannelongue, under the guidance of the French surgeon Philippe Dartevelle. The training in France has been fundamental to his professional growth, it was Professor Dartevelle to teach him to try to help patients using new techniques and creativity, which is the basis of the french school of french surgery, which he says is the best in the World. After the french experience and specialization in the transplantation of organs and tissues, he has felt the need to make another experience that has taken him to Germany and later on in 2005, to Spain, to Barcelona at the Department of General Thoracic Surgery the Hospital Clinic of Barcelona, where in 2008 he performed the first trachea transplant, rebuilt with stem cells. The potential of stem cell therapy, he explains, is to avoid human organ donations, and to be able to replace the complex tissues and whole organs with artificially reconstructed organs in the laboratory using autologous stem cells, he explains. Nowadays, he says, is working to translate what he has learned through the tissue-engineered tracheal replacement for the esophagus and the use of stem cell therapy to restore the function of the organs of the chest, without replacing them entirely. This is an ambitious program, but Professor Macchiarini says, reporting a statement of TS Eliot's "Only those who risk going far can possibly find out how far you can 'go'. In the future, thanks to this new researchs, based on the use of stem cells taken from the patients themselves, waiting lists could be overcome as well as the risk of the organ rejection. Many steps must still be made to ensure that these therapies are effective and without risk to patients, altough surely they give to patients with serious diseases like Lymphangioleiomyomatosis, for whom, in the final phase of the disease, the only potential possible therapy is a lung transplant, new hopes.
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