Hannah Warren, the youngest person ever to have had a bioengineered organ implanted, died Saturday, the New York Times reports. She was just two years old. Hannah was born without a trachea, and had a bioengineered windpipe implanted in April. Her esophagus was also involved in that surgery, and she had a second operation last month when it didn't heal correctly; complications from that operation ultimately killed her. "The trachea was never a problem," explains the surgeon. "It was her native tissue that was very fragile."
Stem cells from the toddler's bone marrow were attached to the plastic windpipe; they multiplied to create the trachea, the Telegram explains. The FDA approved the experimental surgery, which had been performed just five times previously and never in the US, because the little girl had small chance of surviving without it. "Hannah was a pioneer," says another surgeon. "At this point, we’re all just raw with pain." The longest person to have survived after a similar windpipe surgery has lived more than two and a half years post-surgery so far. (Read more trachea stories.)