Doctors say they may try transplanting another baboon liver into a human by the end of the year despite the death of the first transplant recipient 71 days after his operation.
An autopsy on the 35-year-old man found no sign that the liver failed, Dr. Thomas Starzl, chief of the Pittsburgh Medical Center's Transplantation Institute, said Tuesday.The man, who wasn't identified at his request, died Sunday when a blood vessel burst in his brain, said Dr. Anthony Demetris, the center's director of transplant pathology. The problem was probably unrelated to the transplant, doctors said.
The man had an advanced case of hepatitis B that would have killed him had he not gotten the transplant, doctors said.
The liver grew to the size of an adult human liver within one month of the operation, and the man experienced only minor episodes of rejection and liver failure, doctors said at a news conference.
"It looks as though there should be another trial, perhaps with somebody not so far along in their disease," Starzl said.
A university ethics panel has tentatively approved three operations but will wait until a report on the first transplant before allowing another.
The panel can forbid more operations, but medical center President Jeffrey Romoff said he anticipated approval.
A second operation in Pittsburgh could happen before 1993, Starzl said.
Doctors have said it may take two weeks before the cause of death can be pinpointed.
The autopsy revealed only one abnormality in the transplanted liver: a buildup of bile, Demetris said.
Doctors also found blood in the man's lungs and kidneys, but were unsure of the significance.
A list of transplant operations in which a human received an animal organ. The number of cases is in parentheses.
All the patients have died. The longest surviving patient lived nine months with a chimpanzee kidney in 1963-1964.
1963, kidney, baboon, Hennepin City Hospital, Minneapolis
1963-64, kidney, chimpanzee, Tulane University, New Orleans
1963-64, kidney, baboon, University of Colorado, Denver
1964, heart, chimpanzee, University of Mississippi, Jackson, Miss.
1964, kidney, chimpanzee, Medical College of Virginia, Richmond, Va.
1964, kidney, monkey, Tulane University, New Orleans
1969-74, liver, chimpanzee, University of Colorado, Denver
1977, heart, baboon, Capetown University, Capetown, South Africa
1977, heart, chimpanzee, Capetown University, Capetown, South Africa
1984, heart, baboon, Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, Calif.
1992, liver, baboon, University of Pittsburgh
Source: University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.