In April of this year a two year-old girl was given a windpipe made from her own stem cells. Hannah Warren, who unfortunately died on Saturday, was the youngest person to receive this experimental treatment.
Hannah’s windpipe was crafted from her bone marrow cells and were “seeded in a lab onto a plastic scaffold,” (Credit) and multiplied to create a functional windpipe. The windpipe was implanted on April 9th, but Hannah couldn’t “overcome additional health issues that were identified as her care progressed,” the hospital said in a statement.
Hannah was born in South Korea to Darryl Warren, a Canadian teaching English in South Korea, and his wife Young-Mi. She was born without a trachea which meant she couldn’t eat, breathe or speak without help. She was transferred to Illinois after a pediatric surgeon travelling through Korea on a business trip connected them with Dr. Paolo Macchiarini, the surgeon who developed the technique.
Dr. Mark Holterman, the Illinois doctor from Korea, arranged for the family to fly to his Children’s Hospital to receive the surgery with Macchiarini leading the team. Hannah’s parents, Darryl Warren and Young-Mi, could not afford the surgery in Macchiarini’s center in Stockholm so the Children’s Hospital of Illinois waived the cost.
The hospital is “a Roman Catholic system that considers the operation part of its mission to provide charity care and a way to champion a type of stem-cell therapy that doesn’t involve human embryos,” said the surgeons. This is why they were eager to work with Macchiarini and Hannah, hoping to save the girl’s life with the experimental surgery.
After Hannah passed her family released this statement on a fundraising blog:
She is a pioneer in stem-cell technology and her impact will reach all corners of our beautiful Earth. Her new trachea was performing well, but her lungs went from fairly good, to weak, to poor. We will forever miss her infectious personality and miraculous strength and spirit. Credit