UCL Ear Institute


Martin Birchall

As one of a small elite team of global surgeons, Professor Martin Birchall at the UCL Ear Institute and colleagues are already performing ground-breaking procedures in regenerative medicine and have had great successes recently in rebuilding a larynx and the tracheas of a woman and a young boy using synthetic materials produced from stem cells and organ donation. These were landmark procedures in regenerative medicine, with both patients in excellent health two years’ later with no need for anti-rejection drugs.

Case Study: First child stem-cell trachea transplant

As one of a small elite team of global surgeons, UCL Professor Martin Birchall and colleagues have had great successes recently in rebuilding the trachea of a young boy using synthetic materials produced from stem cells and organ donation. This was a landmark procedure in regenerative medicine, with the patient in excellent health two years’ later with no need for antirejection drugs.

“Since the treatment plan for Ciaran was devised in an emergency, we used a novel mix of techniques that have proved successful in treating other conditions. To minimise delays, we bypassed the usual process of growing cells in the laboratory over a period of weeks, and instead opted to grow the cells inside the body, in a similar manner to treatments currently being trialled with patients who have had heart attacks. We need more research on stem cells grown deliberately inside the body, rather than grown first in a laboratory over a long time. This research could help convert one-off successes such as this into more widely available clinical treatments for thousands of children with severe tracheal problems worldwide.” Professor of Laryngology, Martin Birchall, UCL Ear Institute

Prof Martin Birchall


Professorial Unit
330 Gray's Inn Road


  • Chair of Larynogology
    The Ear Institute
    Faculty of Brain Sciences

Joined UCL


In 2008 and 2010, I co-led the multidisciplinary teams which successfully performed the World’s first stem-cell based, tissue-engineered organ implants (bronchus and trachea) in an adult and a child respectively, opening up new vistas for organ replacement in years to come.

I am a passionate supporter of Research in Surgery, at UCL Partners and nationally through the Royal College of Surgeons of England, and always try to embed bright young surgeons in these research teams, thus supporting the next generation of surgical pioneers.

My translational research efforts have recently been recognised by the award of NIHR Senior Investigator status and in 2011, by becoming the first ENT surgeon to be elected to the Academy of Medical Sciences. 

Since 1995, I have attempted to harness the best of biomedical science to support restoration of function to people whose throats have been damaged by accident and disease, including cancer. Working with scientists, fellow surgeons and patients (I am Medical Director, National Association of Laryngectomee Clubs), I have assembled specific teams to address a variety of throat disorders. These include the understanding of laryngeal immunity to help people with inflammatory (laryngitis) and malignant (throat cancer) conditions; repairing paralysed laryngeal nerves; and investigating viral (papillomatosis) and bacterial infections of the throat.

With the ultimate goal of achieving complete replacement of the functions of  the larynx for persons in whom it is destroyed by trauma or cancer, the work of these teams, underpinned by the unparalleled infrastructure and know-how of UCL, is now being brought together into parallel themes of stem-cell/tissue-engineered airway replacements, biomaterials and soft robotics.