Chris Lyles

Chris Lyles was the first U.S. patient to undergo synthetic trachea transplant, an experimental procedure done in Sweden. (Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimore Sun / January 13, 2012)

Christopher Michael Lyles, an engineer who was the second person in the world to receive a synthetic trachea, died March 5 at Franklin Square Hospital in Baltimore. The cause of death is unclear.

The Abingdon resident was 30 years old.

He was a graduate of Baltimore Polytechnic Institute in 1999. In 2004, he earned his bachelor of science in engineering from Morgan State University on a full scholarship. He earned his master's degree in technical management-project management at the Johns Hopkins University in 2009.

He went to work as an electrical engineer for the Naval Air Systems Command and was employed with the Army at the time of his death.

He was named one of the Outstanding Black Engineers of the Year in 2009 by the National Society of Black Engineers.

A year later, he began suffering from coughing fits and was diagnosed with Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma of the trachea. Doctors determined the tumor was inoperable. He and his family researched doctors until they found Dr. Paolo Macchiarini at the Advanced Center for Translational Regenerative Medicine at Karolinska Institute of Stockholm.

In November, Mr. Lyles flew to Sweden, where he spent 12 hours in surgery for a tracheal transplant using his own stem cells from bone marrow to make a fake windpipe.

"I'm an optimist, but a realist, too, so I was nervous," Mr. Lyles said of the transplant during an interview in January. "But I am also a fighter, and I wasn't going to sit by idle and let this take me."

His relatives said they and Mr. Lyles were strong advocates of stem cell therapy.

"He put his life on the line so other people can live longer," his older sister, Erica Greene, said of the risk the surgery presented. "In the future there will be tracheal transplants [in the U.S]. But someone had to be the first do it."

In addition to becoming an advocate for stem cell research, Mr. Lyles loved to ride motorcycles and work as an event promoter.

He is survived by his daughter, Erin Lyles of Baltimore; parents, Dennis and Dorne Lyles of Baltimore; sister; and three nephews of Carrollton, Ga.

A memorial service is scheduled at 10 a.m. Friday at the Morgan State University Student Center Ballroom A&B, 1700 E. Cold Spring Lane.

jkanderson@baltsun.com

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