A baby has become the first person in the world to receive a combined heart and thymus transplant — offering hope to millions of patients.
Easton Sinnamon was born with a weak heart and immune system and spent his first seven months in hospital.
He needed numerous heart operations as well as treatment for recurrent infections his body was unable to fight on its own.
His doctors, from Duke University in the US, requested approval for an experimental type of transplant that hadn’t been done in combination in humans before.
As well as a new heart, they believed he needed a transplant for his thymus – a gland in the chest which makes white blood cells called T cells.
When our immune system detects a foreign body it can send these white blood cells to fight off what is believed to be an infection.
Experts thought that by transplanting a heart and thymus tissue from the same donor, the thymus would be tricked into not thinking the new heart is a foreign body.
They received approval and, at just six months old, Easton received his heart transplant followed by the thymus tissue implant two weeks later.
Now, at the age of one, he is said to be ‘thriving’ following the procedure, which has the potential to change the future of organ transplants.
Most people who receive a transplant need to take lifelong immunosuppressant drugs to prevent their immune system from rejecting the new organ.
But taking these drugs over a long period can weaken their immune system and make them extremely vulnerable to even mild infections.
Easton continues to be monitored and it is hoped in the future he will be taken off the anti-rejection drugs.