Man Gets Genetically-Modified Pig Heart in World-First Transplant
A US man has become the first person in the world to get a heart transplant from a genetically-modified pig. David Bennett, 57, is doing well three days after the experimental seven-hour procedure in Baltimore, doctors say.
The transplant was considered the last hope of saving Mr Bennett's life, though it is not yet clear what his long-term chances of survival are.
"It was either die or do this transplant," Mr Bennett explained a day before the surgery.
"I know it's a shot in the dark, but it's my last choice," he said.
Doctors at the University of Maryland Medical Center were granted a special dispensation by the US medical regulator to carry out the procedure, on the basis that Mr Bennett would otherwise have died.
[...] He had been deemed ineligible for a human transplant, a decision that is often taken by doctors when the patient is in very poor health.
Surgeons Successfully Transplant Genetically Modified Pig Heart Into Human Patient
[...] Scientists have tried to save humans with animal organs for decades. One of the most notable attempts occurred in 1984 when doctors grafted a baboon heart into Stephanie Fae Beauclair, an infant born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome. The congenital disorder left her body incapable of circulating blood properly. Baby Fae, as she was better known, survived for 21 days before her body eventually rejected the transplanted organ.
According to The New York Times, what makes this latest procedure different is doctors used a heart that had been genetically modified to remove four genes that encode a molecule that causes the body to reject the orphan organ. They also inserted six human genes to make the immune system more tolerable of the foreign tissue. Whether the experiment represents a breakthrough will depend on what happens next. Bennett's body could still reject the pig heart. For the moment, however, he's alive, and doctors are understandably excited about what this could mean for patients.