By Michelle Roberts
Digital health editor
US doctors say a young boy called Easton has made medical history by becoming the first person in the world to receive a combined heart and thymus transplant.
The pioneering procedure was done to save his life, but could also revolutionise the field of organ transplantation, they hope.
The donated thymus tissue should help stop his body rejecting the new heart.
Months on from the surgery, tests reveal Easton is progressing well.
The thymus tissue is working, meaning his body is building critical immune cells which might ultimately reduce or even eliminate the need for him to take lifelong anti-rejection drugs.
One of his doctors, Joseph Turek from Duke University Hospital, said: “We are very excited about it. This concept of tolerance has always been the holy grail in transplantation, and we are now on the doorstep.
“This has the potential to change the face of solid organ transplantation in the future.”
The thymus gland helps the development of T-cells, which fight foreign substances in the body. It teaches these immune cells what is “self” and what isn’t, and therefore what can be attacked.
Giving Easton cultured thymus tissue from the same donor who gave him a heart, should help his body adopt the new tissues, his doctors believe.