An American baby has made medical history by undergoing the world’s first heart and thymus (primary lymphoid gland specialized for the immune system) transplant in a surgery that could change the way transplants are performed. organs are performed.
Baby Easton Sinnamon has had the operation which doctors now hope will make transplants more successful, reducing the risk of the body rejecting the organ – it could also reduce the need for patients to take medication for years to come which can cause problems with kidney disease and even cancer to avoid rejection.
Doctors at Duke Health in North Carolina, USA, transplanted a donated heart, along with cultured tissue from the donor’s thymus. The thymus stimulates the production of infection-fighting white T-cells, and doctors hope Easton’s immune system will recognize the donor heart as his own.
The baby was born with a heart defect that prevented one of the heart valves from closing and underwent open-heart surgery with just 5 days to live to resolve it. But the procedure was only partially successful and doctors decided he would need a heart transplant to survive – Easton’s immune system wasn’t working to fight infections, so last August he became the first patient in the world to receive a new heart. and cultured thymus tissue from the same donor. The heart transplant was done first, and two weeks later his thymus was replaced.
The baby is being given drugs to suppress his immune system to avoid rejection, but doctors say the new thymus tissue should help his body accept the new organ and allow him to stop taking the drugs for the year next.
A transplanted heart normally functions for 10 to 15 years, but doctors hope Easton’s could last for decades. “I hope that as he gets older he will be proud of his scars and know that he not only saved his own life, but also the lives of other people,” said his mother Kaitlyn.
Joseph Turek, chief of pediatric cardiac surgery at Duke, said the operation could be repeated with other organs, such as the kidneys and liver. “It could affect thousands and thousands of patients who will need transplants in the future,” he concluded.