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Baby gets heart transplant with twist to fight rejection

Doctors at Duke University say a baby is doing well after a heart transplant, the first of its kind, which comes with an additional technique to try to help prevent rejection of the new organ.

The thymus plays a vital role in building the immune system. Doctors have wondered if implanting thymus tissue that matches a given organ could help it survive without the recipient needing toxic anti-rejection drugs.

Easton Sinnamon of Asheboro, North Carolina received his unique transplant last summer when he was 6 months old. But Duke waited to announce it until Monday after doctors learned that the specially treated thymus implants appeared to be working as they had hoped – producing immune cells that don’t treat the baby’s new heart like tissue. foreigner.

Doctors will eventually try to wean Easton off necessary immunosuppressive drugs after a transplant, said Dr. Joseph Turek, Duke’s chief of pediatric cardiac surgery.

The research is in its infancy and only one possible method that scientists are testing in hopes of inducing what is called immune tolerance to a transplant.

But Turek says if it works, it could be tried with other organ transplants, not just the heart.

Easton was a candidate for the experimental transplant because he had two separate health conditions. He was born with heart defects that surgeries right after birth failed to fix. And he suffered from recurring infections that doctors eventually figured out his own thymus was not working properly.

Some babies are born without a thymus, which stimulates the development of a part of the immune system known as T cells. In addition, Duke researchers had worked with Enzyvant Therapeutics to develop lab implants of donated thymus tissue to treat this rare disease.

Easton got a combination of both procedures. The first surgeons implanted his new heart while the donated thymus was sent to a lab. About two weeks later, he underwent a second operation to implant the treated thymus tissue. His own partially functioning thymus was removed, to open the way for the installation of new immune cells.

About six months later, tests show that thymus tissue is building new functional T cells in Easton, Turek said.


The Associated Press Health and Science Department is supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.