Three days after receiving a genetically engineered pig heart in a first-of-its-kind surgery, a man with fatal heart disease is responding nicely, according to his physicians.
The procedure, carried out by a team from the University of Maryland Medicine in the United States, is one of the first to show that a pig-to-human heart transplant is conceivable, a field made possible by modern gene-editing techniques.
Scientists anticipate that pig organs, if effective, will assist to reduce donor organ shortages.
“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 David Bennett’s last choice, a 57-year-old from Maryland.
“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 a day before his surgery, according to a statement released by the university.
On New Year’s Eve, the institution received emergency approval from the US Food and Drug Administration through its compassionate use program to proceed with the experimental procedure.
“The FDA used our data and data on the experimental pig to authorise the transplant in an end-stage heart disease patient who had no other treatment options,” said Dr Muhammad Mohiuddin, who heads the University’s programme on xenotransplantation – transplanting animal organs into humans.
According to organdonor.gov, over 110,000 Americans are now waiting for an organ transplant, with more than 6,000 individuals dying each year before receiving one.
Revivicor, a regenerative medicine business based in Virginia, presented Bennett with a genetically modified pig heart. The transplant team withdrew the pig’s heart the morning of the procedure and placed it in a special device to keep it functioning until the surgery.
Because their organs are so comparable to human organs, pigs have long been a tantalizing source of possible transplants.
Kidneys, liver, and lungs are among the pig organs being studied for transplantation into humans.