clinical NEWS

March 18, 2O22

Baby Gets World's First Combined Heart-and-Thymus Transplant

A baby received a first-of-its-kind combined heart and thymus transplant at Duke University Hospital in a bid to help prevent rejection of a transplanted organ.(1)

The thymus, an organ located in the chest behind the breastbone, stimulates the development of T cells which differentiate the body's own cells from foreign tissue. By implanting some of the thymus issue from the heart donor, doctors are hoping that this will make the body recognize the new heart as its own instead of seeing it as a foreign organ. Duke University researchers have been working on thymus tissue processing and implantation for years and have shown good results in animal experiments but it has never been tried in a live recipient.

The patient, Easton Sinnamon, received this experimental transplant because he had two separate congenital defects. Aside from heart defects that surgeries weren’t able to resolve, he also has a defective thymus making him susceptible to recurrent infections.

Easton first underwent a heart transplant on August 6, 2021 when he was just 6 months old. After two weeks, his thymus was replaced with the processed thymus tissue obtained from the same heart donor. Now with Easton at 1 year old, the implanted thymus is confirmed to be producing immune cells that don’t treat the new heart as foreign tissue.  

The next stage will involve slowly weaning baby Easton off the immune-suppressing drugs to establish whether he has developed immune tolerance from the novel transplant procedure.

If successful, this technique can be used in other types of organ transplants to reduce the risk of organ rejection and the need for lifelong drugs that suppress the immune system.


1.     Avery, S. (2022, March 7). Baby receives world's first combination heart transplant-thymus procedure. Duke Today. Retrieved March 15, 2022, from

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