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Scientific progress

07 - 12 - 2017

heart transplants are turning 50

The first human heart transplant was performed 50 years ago. It was preceded by several hundred transplants in dogs, a necessary step to prepare the first human transplant.


An article in The New York Times tells the story of this surgical operation that saves tens of thousands of people every year.


Two teams, one in South Africa headed by Christiaan Barnard, and the other in the USA led by Norman Shumway, progressed in parallel.



The first heart transplant in dogs was conducted in 1959 by Dr. Shumway. Subsequently, both teams performed many transplants in dogs to develop the technique. In 1967, 2/3 of the grafted dogs lived more than a year.



The first human heart transplant was performed on December 3, 1967 by Dr. Barnard and his team. Dr. Shumway performed his first human transplant on January 6, 1968.


Today, there is no alternative system that would avoid the use of animals for the development of a surgical procedure of this magnitude.


Although the scientific and medical environment of such studies has little to do with that of 1967, Carmat heart transplant tests had to be performed on ruminants before the first steps in humans. The Carmat heart aims to save the thousands of people around the world for whom every year no donor is found.


Research is ongoing.