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In 1st, US Surgeons Transplant Pig Heart Into Human Patient

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In 1st, US surgeons transplant pig heart into human patient

In 1st, US surgeons transplant pig heart into human patient


In a medical first, doctors transplanted a pig heart into a patient in a last-ditch effort to save his life and a Maryland hospital said Monday that he’s doing well three days after the highly experimental surgery.

While it’s too soon to know if the operation really will work, it marks a step in the decades-long quest to one day use animal organs for life-saving transplants. Doctors at the University of Maryland Medical Center say the transplant showed that a heart from a genetically modified animal can function in the human body without immediate rejection.

The patient, David Bennett, a 57-year-old Maryland handyman, knew there was no guarantee the experiment would work but he was dying, ineligible for a human heart transplant and had no other option, his son told The Associated Press.

“It was either die or do this transplant. I want to live. I know it’s a shot in the dark, but it’s my last choice,” Bennett said a day before the surgery, according to a statement provided by the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

“If this works, there will be an endless supply of these organs for patients who are suffering,” said Dr. Muhammad Mohiuddin, scientific director of the Maryland university’s animal-to-human transplant program.

But prior attempts at such transplants — or xenotransplantation — have failed, largely because patients’ bodies rapidly rejected the animal organ. Notably, in 1984, Baby Fae, a dying infant, lived 21 days with a baboon heart.

The difference this time: The Maryland surgeons used a heart from a pig that had undergone gene-editing to remove a sugar in its cells that’s responsible for that hyper-fast organ rejection. Several biotech companies are developing pig organs for human transplant; the one used for Friday’s operation came from Revivicor, a subsidiary of United Ther@peutics.

“I think you can characterize it as a watershed event,” Dr. David Klassen, UNOS’ chief medical officer, said of the Maryland transplant.
oons over five years, before offering the option to Bennett.

“We’re learning a lot every day with this gentleman,” Griffith said. “And so far, we’re happy with our decision to move forward. And he is as well: Big smile on his face today.”

Pig heart valves also have been used successfully for decades in humans, and Bennett’s son said his father had received one about a decade ago.

As for the heart transplant, “He realizes the magnitude of what was done and he really realizes the importance of it,” David Bennett Jr. said. “He could not live, or he could last a day, or he could last a couple of days. I mean, we’re in the unknown at this point.”




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