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.
The first person to receive a heart transplant from a pig has died, two months after the groundbreaking experiment, the Maryland hospital that performed the surgery announced Wednesday.
David Bennett, 57, died Tuesday at the University of Maryland Medical Center. Doctors didn't give an exact cause of death, saying only that his condition had begun deteriorating several days earlier.
[...] Prior attempts at such transplants — or xenotransplantation — have failed largely because patients' bodies rapidly rejected the animal organ. This time, the Maryland surgeons used a heart from a gene-edited pig: Scientists had modified the animal to remove pig genes that trigger the hyper-fast rejection and add human genes to help the body accept the organ.
At first the pig heart was functioning, and the Maryland hospital issued periodic updates that Bennett seemed to be slowly recovering. Last month, the hospital released video of him watching the Super Bowl from his hospital bed while working with his physical therapist.
Bennett survived significantly longer with the gene-edited pig heart than one of the last milestones in xenotransplantation — when Baby Fae, a dying California infant, lived 21 days with a baboon's heart in 1984.
[...] One next question is whether scientists have learned enough from Bennett's experience and some other recent experiments with gene-edited pig organs to persuade the FDA to allow a clinical trial — possibly with an organ such as a kidney that isn't immediately fatal if it fails.