Danish boy undergoes experimental transplant surgery in groundbreaking operation

CPH POST |  Stephan Gadd
Thymus transplant surgery might also help cancer patients in future (photo: Max Pixell)
The thymus is a small glandular structure that regulates the immune system. Without this vital organ, a baby will often die within the first year from a simple bacterial or viral infection.

The boy is now one of 12 European children who have received experimental transplant surgery to remedy this deficiency, reports Videnskab.dk.

“The transplantation is very close to the ‘cutting edge’, but it succeeded and the boy now has an immune system that has stabilised and can fight viral and bacterial infections,” said Ifversen.

As a result of the operation, he is expected to be able to manage for the rest of his life without any preventive medicines.

Making good use of redundant tissue

The operation on the boy was carried out in the UK using thymus tissue from a donor. There is often tissue left over when surgeons perform heart operations on babies because they have to remove some of it to get to the heart. Previously, this had usually been discarded.

The operation has worked so well that the boy’s immune defence is up to 75 percent capacity.

“We can see that the new thymus tissue has been taken over by the patient and has trained the immune system to recognise and not attack the boy’s own cells,” added Ifversen. Continue reading

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