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Medical marvel: Lacona firm's stem-cell technology used to create windpipe


BioSpherix, a company based in Lacona, provided a cell incubation system used by an international team of surgeons at Children's Hospital of Illinois to create and implant a windpipe into a 32-month-old Korean toddler born without a trachea.

Hannah Warren, who was unable to breathe, talk, swallow, eat or drink since birth, was the youngest patient in the world to benefit from the experimental treatment, conducted at the hospital April 9. The toddler had spent her life in a neonatal intensive care unit at a hospital in Seoul, South Korea, before the ground-breaking operation.

The trachea was created using the toddler's own stem cells. BioSpherix's Xvivo cell incubation system played a critical role in producing the engineered trachea, enabling doctors to manufacture it completely within a surgical suite at which it was implanted, according to a release from the company.

“The BioSpherix system for cells was the answer to our prayers,” Dr. Mark Holterman, professor of surgery and pediatrics at the University of Illinois College of Medicine, Peoria, said in a release. “Their technology allowed us to safely build a new trachea for our patient and virtually eliminated the risk of contamination at no cost.”

The BioSpherix technology was particularly helpful because without it the patient would have had to be transported to a hospital 150 miles away, putting the live cells at risk, said Randy A. Yerden, owner and CEO of BioSpherix.

“This proves regenerative medicine can take place in any hospital,” Mr. Yerden said in a statement. “Aspiring cell therapists are no longer dependent on the limited number of multi-million-dollar clean rooms, usually only found in large tertiary hospitals and research centers. Now other brilliant surgeons, like Dr. Holterman and his team, can begin engaging in organ engineering wherever they practice.”

The cell incubation system produces cells inside a series of flexible, interconnected chambers that integrate instruments and processing tools. Cells and supplies enter one side, and waste is expelled during the process. A clinical-grade cell product emerges when the process is finished.

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