My news aggregator caught this story because it features an airline, and while it isn't really airline news, I want to blog about it.
The synopsis is that a surgical team managed to grow a new windpipe for a patient who was dying of tuberculosis, using a donor windpipe from a deceased person, and stem cells from the patient's own bone marrow. They chemically stripped the cells from the donor windpipe, then convinced the stem cells to become cartilage and regrow a new windpipe using the template provided by what was left of the old one. (Biology-type people, please tell me what is left when you remove cells from a biological part. Dirt? I was under the impression that a human being was entirely composed of cells).
Stem cell research mainly makes it into the news when it's involved in the ethical question of using foetal tissue for research. It's bandied around by politicians as a theoretical, so I'm embarrassed by how taken by surprise I am by the present practical application of this research. The smiling 30-year-old woman in the linked article is breathing today because someone grew her a body part in a laboratory. Why has this not been on the front page of my newspaper? This is huge. I'm sure I have doctors and biologists among my readers. Is this not a medical advance as great as any in the history of medicine?
Airplanes come into this because the windpipe was grown in Bristol, England while the patient was in Barcelona, Spain and the whole thing could only survive for a few hours outside of the laboratory or patient. The airline refused permission to take the human tissue onto the airplane. (More than 100 mL of fluid, I presume). There must be a policy for transport of donor organs that could be tapped, and I have to fault the medical staff for not prearranging transport before taking the windpipe out of the laboratory, but they did solve the problem.
Someone knew someone who had a PPL and they managed to scare up a private airplane and pilot and get everything to the right place in time to do the surgery.
Oh and speaking of advances in medicine, I saw the most recent X-Files movie and damn, that was painful watching Scully the brain surgeon do her medical research by typing "stem cell therapy" into Google the day before the operation.