First, physicians transplanted a pig heart into a patient in a last-ditch bid to save a patient’s life in a medical first. According to a Maryland hospital, the patient is doing well three days after the highly experimental surgery.
While it’s too early to say whether the procedure will succeed, it’s an important step forward in the decades-long goal to one day employ animal organs for life-saving transplants. According to doctors at the University of Maryland Medical Center, the transplant demonstrated that a heart from a genetically modified animal might function in the human body without rapid rejection.
The patient, David Bennett, a 57-year-old Maryland handyman, was aware that the experiment had no promise of success. Still, he was dying, ineligible for a human heart transplant, and had no other options, according to his son.
“It was either die or do this transplant,” says the patient. I want to live. A day before the surgery, Bennett remarked, “I know it’s a gamble, but it’s my last resort,” according to a statement released by the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
On Monday, Bennett was breathing independently despite still being attached to a heart-lung machine to assist his new heart. During the coming few weeks, Bennett’s recovery from surgery and physicians’ careful monitoring of his heart’s condition will be necessary.
Due to a shortage of human organs available for transplant, scientists are attempting to find a way to use animal organs instead. As per the United Network for Organ Sharing, which supervises the nation’s transplant system, there were just over 3,800 heart transplants in the United States last year, a record number.
The Food and Drug Administration approved the procedure under a “compassionate use” emergency authorization, accessible when a patient with a life-threatening condition has no other options.
Scientists have tinkered with the genomes of pigs instead of monkeys over the years.
Researchers in New York experimented last September that suggested these types of pigs could be helpful for animal-to-human transplants. Doctors briefly implanted a pig’s kidney into the body of a deceased human and watched its function.
According to Dr. Robert Montgomery, who led the operation at NYU Langone Health, the Maryland transplant takes their experiment to the next level.
In a statement, he remarked, “This is a genuinely spectacular breakthrough.” “As a heart transplant recipient who also has a genetic cardiac condition, I am overjoyed by this news and the hope it provides for my family and other patients who will benefit from this discovery.”
The surgery, which took place last Friday at a Baltimore hospital, lasted seven hours. The patient’s condition — heart failure and an erratic heartbeat — made him ineligible for a human heart transplant or a heat pump, according to Dr. Bartley Griffith, who performed the procedure.
Before providing the opportunity to Bennett, Griffith had implanted pig hearts into around 50 baboons over five years.
“With this individual, we’re learning a lot every day,” Griffith added. “So far, we’re pleased with our decision to proceed. And he’s happy, too: a big grin on his face today.”
According to Bennett’s son, Pig heart valves have been effectively used in people for decades, who said his father acquired one around a decade ago.
Dr. Muhammad Mohiuddin, scientific head of the Maryland university’s animal-to-human transplant program, stated, “If this works, there will be an unlimited supply of these organs for individuals who are suffering.”
However, previous attempts at such transplants — known as xenotransplantation — have failed, owing to the body’s immediate rejection of the animal organ. In 1984, a dying newborn named Baby Fae survived for 21 days with a baboon heart.
However, this time the Maryland surgeons utilized a heart from a pig that had been gene-edited to eliminate sugar in its cells that causes the organ rejection to happen so quickly. Several biotech companies are working on pig organs for human transplantation; the one used in Friday’s procedure came from Revivicor, a United Therapeutics subsidiary.
According to Dr. David Klassen, UNOS’ senior medical officer, “may be described as a landmark event.” “He recognizes the significance of what was done, and he realizes the value of it,” David Bennett Jr. said of the heart transplant. “He might not live, or he might live for a day, or he might live for a few of days.” “I mean, we’re in the middle of nothing right now.”