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Logo of thijTexas Heart Institute JournalSee also Cardiovascular Diseases Journal in PMCSubscribeSubmissionsTHI Journal Website
Tex Heart Inst J. 2006; 33(3): 412.
PMCID: PMC1592287

Chimpanzee Heart Was Not Rejected by Human Recipient

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.

figure 34FF1
Fig. 1 Histologic slide that James Hardy sent to Raimund Margreiter of Innsbruck. On its frame, Dr. Hardy wrote, “Biopsy of chimp heart. Jan 1964. Absence of hyperacute rejection.” (H & E stain, orig. ca. ×70.)

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.

Prof. Dr. Raimund Margreiter
Department of General and Transplant Surgery, Universitätsklinik Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Austria


1. Silbergleit A. Norman E. Shumway and the early heart transplants. Tex Heart Inst J 2006;33:274–5. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
2. Hardy JD. The first lung (1963) and heart (1964) transplants in man: Scientific bases and societal dimensions in retrospect. In: Barker CF, Daly JM, editors. Jonathan E. Rhoads: Eightieth Birthday Symposium. Philadelphia: JB Lippincott; 1989. p. 124–36.
3. Hardy JD, Chavez CM. The first heart transplant in man. Developmental animal investigations with analysis of the 1964 case in the light of current clinical experience. Am J Cardiol 1968;22:772–81. [PubMed]

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