What you need to know:
- Medical regulatory body green-lighted the experimental transplant that saw a baby boy named Easton make medical history in August 2021, aged six-months at the time.
- The child, who according to the doctors was born with a weak heart, became the first person in the world to receive a combined heart and thymus transplant.
Patients who need organ transplantation could soon stop relying on anti-rejection drugs for the rest of their lives if the first ever combined heart and thymus procedure proves successful.
The pioneering procedure which is likely to revolutionize the field of solid organ transplantation is testing the thymus tissue ability to prevent a recipient’s body from rejecting a new heart.
Thymus gland is responsible for the development of T-cells that combat foreign substances in the body according to scientists at the Duke University Hospital in the United States.
Medics are upbeat that the experimental procedure, in the long run, could reduce or even eliminate the need for patients to take tolerance drugs.
“We are excited about this. The concept of tolerance in transplantation has always been the holy grail,” said Joseph Turek, a medic at the Duke University Hospital.
"This experimental procedure has the potential to change the future face of solid organ transplantation.”
Before carrying out the one-of-a-kind transplant, the team of scientists had first sought authorization from the Food and Drug Authority (FDA).
The medical regulatory body green-lighted the experimental transplant that saw a baby boy named Easton make medical history in August 2021, aged six-months at the time.
The child, who according to the doctors was born with a weak heart, became the first person in the world to receive a combined heart and thymus transplant.
“He was born with a weak heart and had problems with his immune system. His first seven months were spent in hospital and part of it on life support. He also needed several heart surgeries and treatment for periodic infections which his body was not capable of fighting on its own,” elaborated Dr Turek.
The numerous medical procedures were simply a band aid to buy time for the trial combination transplant. The child needed a new heart and a new thymus gland, independently.
The patient was given a cultured thymus tissue from the same donor who gave him a heart intentioned to help his body adopt the new tissues.
Doctors believe the donated thymus tissue will help the recipient’s body to stop rejecting the new heart.
The patient has been recovering well as indicated by a number of tests performed since the procedure was carried out eight months ago.
Further studies, scientists have said, will focus on assessing the viability of removing and replacing the thymus gland in individuals who have one that is already fully functioning.