First successful pig-to-human heart transplant performed

Surgeons at the University of Maryland School of Medicine performed the transplant on Friday.
Photo: University of Maryland School of Medicine

Surgeons at the University of Maryland Medical Center on Friday transplanted the heart from a genetically engineered pig to a human patient with end-stage heart disease. It was the first successful porcine-human heart transplant ever and could mark the start of a new era for xenotransplantation, as well as offer new hope to critically ill people who face an ever-present shortage of ‘organs from human donors.

The man from Maryland who underwent the revolutionary procedure, David Bennett, 57, had no other medical options and was too ill to be eligible for a human heart transplant. He understood that the transplant was highly experimental, but was willing to take the risk. “It was either to die or to do this transplant,” he said in a statement before the eight-hour operation. “I want to live. I know it’s a hit in the dark, but it’s my last choice.

Although Bennett’s prognosis remains uncertain, he was still doing well three days after the operation, hospital doctors said on Monday. They will continue to monitor it for the foreseeable future; Bennett was also given a combination of drugs to prevent his immune system from rejecting the organ.

Regardless, Bennett’s doctors said the transplant has now proven that a heart from a genetically modified animal can indeed function inside a human body without being immediately rejected. “It creates the pulse, it creates the pressure, it’s his heart,” remarked Dr Bartley Griffith, who performed the operation and is the director of the heart transplant program at the University of Maryland Medical Center. . Dr Griffith also said that after discussing a possible transplant with Bennett last month, Bennett replied, “Well, am I going to crack? “

Dr Bartley Griffith, left, and patient David Bennett.
Photo: Handout / University of Maryland School of Medicine

Every day, about a dozen Americans on organ transplant lists die, as the demand for replacement organs continues to exceed the supply of others, New York Time noted Monday. More than 41,000 Americans received transplanted organs last year, including more than 3,800 who received hearts from human donors. One way scientists have sought to alleviate the shortage is by using organs from animals that have been genetically modified to reduce the likelihood that human bodies will reject their organs. Pork organs have shown particular promise, as the Time Explain :

Pigs offer advantages over primates for organ harvesting, as they are easier to rear and reach adult human size in six months. Pig heart valves are commonly transplanted into humans, and some diabetic patients have received porcine pancreas cells. Pig skin has also been used as a temporary graft for burn patients. Two new technologies – gene editing and cloning – have produced genetically modified pork organs less likely to be rejected by humans.

“If this works, there will be an inexhaustible supply of these organs for suffering patients,” said Dr. Muhammad Mohiuddin, director of the cardiac xenotransplantation program at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, of the Mr. Bennett’s operation. Dr Mohiuddin and Dr Griffith have been studying the technique they used for Bennett’s transplant for the past five years.

According to the Baltimore Sun, while the Food and Drug Administration has not approved swine heart transplants, it has authorized the surgery under what is known as the agency’s “compassionate use” provision – which allows for experimental treatments when no other is available.

In an earlier scientific breakthrough in September, surgeons at NYU Langone Health in New York City successfully attached a kidney from a genetically engineered pig to a brain-dead human patient on life support (courtesy relatives of the patient). The organ performed as well as a human transplant for more than two days as the researchers tracked it down.

As Vox’s Dylan Matthews – who is a kidney donor himself – pointed out after this experience, while there is no doubt that xenotransplantation is a promising medical frontier that could ultimately prolong or save countless human lives. , there are also moral and ethical issues to consider.

About Norman Griggs

Check Also

Use these quick tricks to ripen bananas

When you see a bunch of unripe bananas on the table, there are usually only …