U.S. Man Gets Genetically-Modified Heart of Pig in World-First Transplant

In a first-of-its-kind procedure, a U.S. man with fatal heart illness had a genetically engineered pig heart inserted, and the patient is doing well three days later, according to his physicians.

The procedure, carried out by a team from the University of Maryland Medicine, is one of the first to show that a pig-to-human heart transplant is feasible, a field made possible by new gene editing techniques.

Scientists anticipate that pig organs, if effective, will assist to reduce donor organ shortages, Reuters reports.

“This was a game-changing surgery that moves us closer to resolving the organ scarcity dilemma.” Dr. Bartley Griffith, who surgically transplanted the pig heart into the patient, said in a statement that there are just not enough donor human hearts available to match the large list of potential candidates.

“We are proceeding with caution, but we are optimistic that this world-first procedure will provide a crucial new alternative for patients in the future,” Griffith added. The heart transplant was the last resort for 57-year-old David Bennett of Maryland. “Either I died or I did the transplant. I’d like to live. Bennett remarked a day before his operation, “I know it’s a gamble, but it’s my final resort,” according to a statement provided by the university.

On New Year’s Eve, the institution received an emergency authorization from the US Food and Drug Administration through its compassionate use program, allowing it to proceed with the experimental surgery.

“”The FDA used our data, as well as data from the experimental pig, to approve the transplant in a patient with end-stage cardiac disease who had no other therapy choices,” said Dr. Muhammad Mohiuddin, who directs the University’s xenotransplantation program.

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