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The BBC's Gargi Patel
"For Robert, it is a reminder of the second chance he has been given"
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Tuesday, 7 November, 2000, 17:23 GMT
Patient gives old heart to museum
Heart BBC
The heart still has its mechanical valve implant
Robert Moss walked into the Science Museum in London, UK, on Tuesday and put the diseased and enlarged heart removed from his chest into a display cabinet.

It's achieved something I never could - a London address

Robert Moss, transplant recipient
The 61-year-old man, who now has a new heart thanks to a transplant operation three months ago, said he hoped his old body part would remind all those who saw it of the desperate need for more donor organs.

Mr Moss, from Driffield in Yorkshire, placed his "old friend", which has been treated with formaldehyde and is contained in a glass jar, alongside other biomedical exhibits in the museum's new Wellcome Wing.

"I'm delighted to give my heart to the museum," he said. "It's achieved something I never could - a London address - but I wouldn't write to it because I don't think it would write back."

'SAS of the NHS'

Mr Moss, who is probably the first living person to donate his heart to a museum, had health problems from the age of seven when he was diagnosed with rheumatic fever.

He had a mechanical valve and a pacemaker fitted to his old heart before the organ was finally removed from his body on 4 August at Papworth Hospital, one of the UK's main cardiothoracic centres.

Heart BBC
The exhibit aims to raise awareness of donor shortages
"I feel tremendously well," he said. "My new heart can now go through the gears - something my old heart could never do." Mr Moss thanked the medical staff who cared for him - the "SAS of the NHS", he called them - and then urged people to be more supportive of transplantation.

"The reason I am giving this heart is that I want people to be more aware that if there are more donor organs the surgical teams will do an awful lot more operations."

Ethical objections

Mr Moss's old heart forms part of a display on transplantation which examines future options open to patients with failing hearts. This includes xenotransplantation (animal to human transplants).

The number of transplants limited only by the number of available donors

Mr John Wallwork, transplant surgeon
The organ sits directly beside a similar jar containing an experimental pig heart that has been genetically modified to stop it being rejected by the human immune system. Many scientists believe animals will provide the only long-term solution to the shortage of human donors.

The pig exhibit was donated by Imutran, a Cambridge, UK, company which is now moving its research to Boston in the US.

Mr John Wallwork, director of transplantation at Papworth and clinical consultant to Imutran, said science could overcome the technical problems of putting animal organs into humans but he doubted whether the ethical climate was right in the UK to pursue xenotransplantation research.

Generosity of relatives

"This is a British invention that is going west," Mr Wallwork said. "This will now be done first in Canada or the US - or one of the developing countries.

"I think the climate in Britain is not good for starting something like this, but that doesn't stop us thinking about how we will do proper trials when it does start."

Mr Wallwork's transplant unit does about 80 heart swaps a year. "The number of transplants undertaken in hospitals like Papworth is limited only by the number of available donors," the surgeon said.

"It is only with the generosity of relatives of someone who has died prematurely that we are able to undertake operations such as the one Mr Moss had."

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