First pig heart transplant patient dies after two months
The first person to receive a heart transplant from a genetically modified pig has died two months after the medical milestone, the hospital that carried out the surgery said Wednesday.
The procedure raised hopes that advances in cross-species organ donation could one day solve the chronic shortage of human organs available for donation, and the team behind the operation say they are “optimistic” about its future success.
“His condition began deteriorating several days ago. After it became clear that he would not recover, he was given compassionate palliative care. He was able to communicate with his family during his final hours,” the statement said.
Bennett was able to spend time with family, participated in physical therapy, watched the Super Bowl and spoke often about wanting to go home to see his dog Lucky.
Bennett came to the hospital in the eastern US state of Maryland in October 2021.
“We have gained invaluable insights learning that the genetically modified pig heart can function well within the human body while the immune system is adequately suppressed,” said Muhammad Mohiuddin, director of the university’s cardiac xenotransplantation program.
Reporting in US media also revealed Bennett was convicted of stabbing a man several times in 1988, leaving the victim paralyzed and wheelchair bound before he died in 2005.
– Human organ shortage –
To meet demand, doctors have long been interested in so-called xenotransplantation, or cross-species organ donation, with experiments tracing back to the 17th century.
More recently, attention has turned toward pigs. Today, pig heart valves are widely used in humans, and pig skin is grafted on human burn victims.
Bennett’s donor pig belonged to a herd that had undergone genetic editing procedures.
Six human genes responsible for human acceptance were inserted into the genome, for a total of 10 unique gene edits.
But while those procedures were carried out on brain dead recipients as proof-of-concept experiments, the surgery on Bennett was the first to actually help a patient who went on to live after the procedure.
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