First-of-its-kind procedure opens door for hundreds more
In 1996, a baby was diagnosed in utero with a lethal heart condition. There was a possible pathway forward, but the procedure had never been performed. The potentially life-saving procedure would be a blood type mismatch heart transplant, the first of its kind and one that went against all accepted clinical practice at the time.
A blood type mismatch transplant would result in a lethal rejection of the donor heart in an adult, but the science suggested this would not be the case for the infant because of the baby’s immature immune system. The science was sound and the medical team believed the procedure offered the best path forward. On Valentine’s Day 1996, the team performed the first intentional blood type mismatch heart transplant in the world. That child is now a healthy 21-year-old and the success of that first procedure opened the door for hundreds more infant transplant procedures globally.
Dr. Lori West led the team that made this fundamental discovery to transplant immunology.