A 62-year-old man became the world's second recipient of a baboon liver at the University of Pittsburgh yesterday in a transplant that was part of an effort to overcome the species barrier and alleviate the growing shortage of organs from human donors.
The patient was dying from hepatitis B, a virus that destroyed his liver, building up bile in his blood and giving his skin a deep yellow hue.
But his chronic active hepatitis B infection would most likely infect a donated human liver, making him ineligible to receive a donated human organ at most transplant centers, including the University of Pittsburgh, officials said. Baboon livers are believed to be resistant to hepatitis B.
Hospital officials have not disclosed the patient's name, saying he requested confidentiality.
The operation began at 11:15 a.m. in Presbyterian Hospital at the university. By 5:30 p.m., the surgeons had sewn the baboon liver to the area from which the man's scarred and shrunken liver had been removed. The operation was completed at 12:35 a.m. Lisa Rossi, a hospital spokeswoman said. The patient was listed in critical condition, normal for such a procedure, she said.
The first baboon-to-human liver transplant was performed last June.
The recipient, an unidentified 35-year-old man with hepatitis B, died in September, 70 days after the transplant. An autopsy showed that the cause of death was a stroke from a fungal infection.