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Toddler Who Received an Experimental Windpipe Has Passed

Update Date: Jul 08, 2013 02:23 PM EDT

The story of two-year-old Hannah Warren, who received an experimental windpipe, was an inspiration for both doctors and parents throughout the world. Warren was born in Seoul, Korea without a trachea to Canadian and Korean parents. This condition forced the young girl to grow up in a Korean Hospital's intensive care unit where she breathed through a tube that connected her esophagus to her lungs. After being the youngest patient to have this type of surgery, as well as the first patient to get the procedure done in the United States, Hannah has passed away this past weekend at the Children's Hospital of Illinois.

"Our hearts are broken," her family members expressed on their blog. Hannah would have been three-years-old next month. "We will forever miss her infectious personality and miraculous strength and spirit...She is a pioneer in stem-cell technology and her impact will reach all corners of our beautiful Earth."

Hannah had received the surgery on April 9 performed by Dr. Paolo Macchiarini, the director of the Advanced Center for Translational Regenerative Medicine at the Karolinska Institute located in Stockholm, Sweden. The windpipe that Hannah received was made from stem cells taken from her bone marrow. Using the stem cells with plastic fibers, the structure of a tube mimicking a trachea was created. The surgery was initially very successful. Children are better candidate for regenerative produces because they are generally better at healing and producing new tissue.

Although Hannah's new trachea proved to be a successful one, her family revealed on their blog that Hannah's lungs continued to deteriorate. According to one of the doctors who was part of the surgery, pediatric surgeon, Dr. Mark Holterman, Hannah's esophagus could not repair properly.

As of today, Macchiarini has performed six of these transplants globally. Four of the patients who received a trachea are reportedly doing well. One of them, who was a cancer patient, died four months post surgery. Despite the losses he and his team have experienced, they are optimistic that this type of surgery involving regenerative medicine could potentially change lives forever.

For more information about Hannah's surgery, click here for another one of Counsel and Heal's articles. 

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