With headlines filled with global turmoil, it is always refreshing to see that, within the realm of biomedical research, national boundaries are being successfully transcended, paving the way for a truly worldwide effort to improve lives.
Consider regenerative medicine. Last June, two patients in Russia were given the world’s first and second successful laryngotracheal implants, using synthetic scaffolds seeded with cells from the patients’ bone marrow. The technology behind these procedures was remarkable, but no less striking was the level of international cooperation involved: They were the result of a global collaboration involving organizations in the US, Sweden, Russia, Germany and Italy.
The principal transplant surgeon and main coordinator for both procedures was Dr. Paolo Macchiarini, Professor of Regenerative Surgery at Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. He was assisted by a team of surgeons from Krasnodar Regional Hospital in Russia, where the procedures took place.
The devices in which the implants were grown, known as bioreactors, were developed, manufactured and prepared by a Massachusetts company, Harvard Bioscience, and its German subsidiary Hugo Sachs Elektronik. The synthetic scaffolds were created by Ohio-based Nanofiber Solutions; and a researcher at the University of Rome performed mechanical testing during development of the scaffold.
The scaffold seeding process, which took place at Krasnodar Regional Hospital, was overseen by a team comprised of individuals from Sweden (Karolinska), Russia (Krasnodar) and Germany (Hugo Sachs Elektronik).
Finally, both patients were treated under a $4.8 million, 2.5-year Russian government Mega-Grant program intended to fund collaborations between Russian scientists and doctors and international leaders in their fields.
Together, this international “dream team” achieved a victory, helping two patients in need and advancing the field of regenerative medicine for future generations.