Two Italian doctors, Fabio Triolo and Saverio la Francesca, implanted the esophagus, also known as the food pipe or the gullet, on a 75-year-old US cancer patient.
“The organ seems to work well and soon similar actions will be tried on other individuals,” Triolo and La Francesca told Repubblica.
La Francesca is president of Biostage, the biotech company that pioneered the operation.
“Biostage is a biotechnology company developing bioengineered organ implants to treat cancers and other life-threatening conditions of the esophagus, bronchus and trachea,” according to the company's website.
The partnership between the doctors has lasted more than a decade, reports Repubblica. Triolo founded the Centre for Regenerative Medicine and Cellular Therapies at the University of Palermo in 2007, before moving to Houston, Texas, in 2011.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the technology in May this year and the implant was designed shortly after at a clinic in Houston.
The cancerous cells were then substituted with the bio-artificial esophagus in the 75-year-old cancer patient.
According to Repubblica, there are 456,000 cases of esophagus cancer in the world each year. Traditionally parts of the stomach or intestine are used to replace the cancerous cells, but this can lead to several complications.
Experts were quick to hail the new transplant method. “From the scientific point of view, this is an important step forward, also because there has been FDA approval, but we must remain cautious. Other clinical trials are needed,” Alessandro Nanni Costa, head of the National Transplant Centre in Italy, told Repubblica.