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First child to receive windpipe grown from own stem cells dies

By Chris Francescani

(Reuters) - Two-year-old Hannah Warren, the first child to receive a windpipe grown from her own stem cells, has died three months after a rare operation, the Children's Hospital of Illinois in Peoria said.

The child was diagnosed with an uncommon congenital abnormality known as tracheal agenesis, which means her windpipe failed to develop. She could not talk, eat or swallow on her own, according to a website by her parents, Darryl and Young-Mi Warren.

Hannah had a trachea transplant in April but "was unable to overcome additional health issues that were identified as her care progressed," the hospital said in a statement on Monday.

The young girl, who would have turned three in August, died on Saturday, the hospital said.

In 2011 her parents learned that an Italian doctor had implanted an artificial windpipe in a 36-year-old man, but the delicate operation had never been attempted on a child.

Hannah, who was born in Seoul, South Korea, emerged at birth blue in the face and unable to breathe.

Dr. Mark Holterman of Children's Hospital learned of the child's condition while on a business trip to Seoul and worked with the family to fly her to the United States and enlist Dr. Paolo Macchiarini in the ground-breaking surgery.

Without an artificial windpipe, Hannah had no chance to survive, Darryl Warren told CBS News.

The medical team designed a tiny tube made of plastic fibers that acted as a scaffolding. The tube was then soaked in her own stem cells. A nine-hour surgery in April was successful, and the child was able to breathe on her own for the first time, according to the parents' website.

"Her new trachea was performing well, but her lungs went from fairly good, to weak, to poor,'' the parents said.

"Our hearts are broken,'' they said. "She gave us over 34 months of ever-lasting memories."

(Reporting by Chris Francescani; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Kenneth Barry)

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