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First heart & thymus transplant

A baby has received a combined heart and thymus transplant in pioneering surgery at Duke University Hospital, North Carolina, USA.

Easton Sinnamon, who has just turned one, was born with separate health problems affecting both his heart and his thymus, leaving him in need of a heart transplant, and unable to produce a complete immune system - the thymus gland produces immune cells in response to infection.

Duke researchers have been working on a therapy to replace the thymus with small fragments of thymus tissue.

These fragments of thymus, together with the heart from the same donor, were then transplanted so that the organ matched the immune system and therefore would potentially avoid the need for immunosuppressant drugs and prevent organ rejection.

“This concept of immune tolerance has always been the holy grail in transplantation, and we are now on the doorstep,” said Dr Joseph Turek, Easton’s doctor at Duke.

A previous EARA Digest story reported on the years of painstaking research carried out at Duke on the thymus – originally using mice.


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