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To the Editor:
In a letter to the editor regarding Dr. Norman E. Shumway and the early heart transplants,1 Dr. Allen Silbergleit correctly states that the 1st human heart transplant was performed by James Hardy at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson on 23 January 1964. He writes further that “the recipient was a 60-year-old man, but the donor was a chimpanzee; the patient died 1 hour later of acute rejection.”1 This is certainly not true, since Dr. Hardy wrote, “Microscopic studies revealed no evidence of acute immunologic rejection of the xenograft.”2 Dr. Hardy was kind enough to send me histologic slides of the excised graft (Fig. 1), which show completely normal myocardium. In several of Dr. Hardy's publications, it was said that “the donor heart eventually appeared unable to handle the venous return. However, in the light of subsequent knowledge, the deteriorated metabolic state of the recipient was doubtless a major factor and perhaps the major factor in eventual failure of the transplant.”3 Dr. Hardy's group had purchased 4 chimpanzees for the purpose of heart donation and had selected the largest, a male that weighed approximately 45 kilos and had a measured cardiac output under anesthesia of approximately 4 L/min.
I'm providing these details because Dr. Hardy's pioneering work deserves correct attribution, and the truth fits much better into our current knowledge of transplantation immunology and physiology.