Pig Heart Transplant

Pig’s heart transplanted into human for first Time

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It was a last-ditch effort to save Maryland man’s life.

Doctors have transplanted the heart from a genetically modified pig into the chest of a man from Maryland in a last-ditch effort to save his life. The first-of-its-kind surgery is being hailed as a major step forward in the decades-long effort to successfully transplant animal organs into humans. 

This handout photo released by the University of Maryland School of Medicine on January 10, 2022 shows surgeons performing a transplant of a heart from a genetically modified pig to patient David Bennett, Sr., in Baltimore, Maryland, on January 7, 2022. Photo: University of Maryland School of Medicine via AFP  .

Although it’s been tried before — one of the earliest subjects, known as Baby Fae, survived 21 days with a baboon’s heart in 1984, according to Time — the practice has fallen into disuse because the animal organs are usually quickly rejected by their human host

This handout photo released by the University of Maryland School of Medicine on January 10, 2022 shows surgeons performing a transplant of a heart from a genetically modified pig to patient David Bennett, Sr., in Baltimore, Maryland, on January 7, 2022. Photo: University of Maryland School of Medicine via AFP  

But doctors say this new transplant is a breakthrough because the donor pig had undergone gene-editing to remove a specific type of sugar from its cells that’s thought to be responsible for previous organ rejections in patients.

The surgery took place on Friday (Jan. 7), and after four days the human patient is breathing on his own, although he is still connected to a heart-lung machine to strengthen his blood circulation, according to a statement from the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC).

The next days and weeks will be critical to whether he survives the operation.

The man, 57-year-old David Bennett from Maryland, has terminal heart disease, but several medical centers had determined that he was ineligible for a human transplant, the statement said.

“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 the day before his surgery. “I look forward to getting out of bed after I recover.”

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Breakthrough surgery

The experimental practice of transplanting animal organs into humans — known as xenotransplants — was largely abandoned after the Baby Fae case in 1984.

She had been born with a terminal heart condition, and doctors hoped that the transplant of a baboon heart could help her stay alive.

But Baby Fae’s immune system rejected the foreign heart, and she died within a month of the procedure.

Pigs are considered suitable heart donors because their hearts are roughly the same size and shape as human hearts.

Pig heart valves have been used successfully for decades to replace damaged heart valves in humans, but until now the possibility of a fatal immune system reaction has prevented entire hearts from being transplanted.

David Bennett of Maryland underwent a surgery on January 7.




The University of Maryland School of Medicine has received more than $15 million in research grants to evaluate the transplants of hearts from genetically modified pigs, according to the statement.

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Originally From Livescience

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