To perform the surgery, an international team lead by Professor Paolo Macchiarini seeded a synthetic scaffold shaped as a trachea the patient's own stem cells. The new cells lined and covered the windpipe were grown on the scaffold for two days before it was transplanted into the patient. Because the cells used to regenerate the trachea were the patient's own, there was no rejection of the transplant and the patient does not have to take immunosuppressive anti-rejection drugs.
There were previous surgeries where donor’s windpipe and the patients' own stem cells were transplanted. However, the latest surgery is the first to use a man-made artificial organ. Several years ago, the same surgical team used a patient's bone marrow stem cells to coat a patient's new trachea, which was damaged from tuberculosis. A few years ago Belgian surgeons had implanted a donor windpipe into their patient's arm to restore its blood supply and grow new tissue before implanting it into her throat. In both transplants, because the patients' own cells were used to coat the windpipes, no anti-rejection medicines were required.