Surgeons Conduct the First Successful Heart Transplant With a Pig Donor

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Surgeons at the University of Maryland Medical Center have successfully transplanted a heart from a genetically engineered pig to a patient. This surgery is the first where surgeons successfully transported a pig heart to a human.

Bennett is recovering after the procedure

David Bennett Sr., the 57-year-old patient, got the transplant after suffering from a severe cardiovascular ailment. Doctors now say that Bennett is responding well to the treatment. Moreover, they believe this innovative technique could help millions of patients with organ failure.

Scientists genetically engineered a pig

The patients used a pig that scientists had genetically engineered for this specific purpose. It weighed 108kg and was one year old. Thanks to the surgery, Bennett no longer needs a ventilator to breathe. However, he still uses an EMCO machine. The machine helps to pump blood throughout his body. Moreover, his doctors plan to wean him off his medication slowly.

The United Network of Organ Sharing has reported that over 3800 patients in the U.S have received heart transplants. However, the organs available are not enough to help people with organ failure. For this reason, scientists are looking at animal organs as alternatives.

The procedure of using animal organs in humans is xenotransplantation. Scientists have tried this method in the past. However, it has never worked as the human body rejects animal organs. For instance, Baby Fae, a newborn in 1984, only survived 21 days after she received a baboon heart.

Scientists in this new procedure used a genetically engineered pig to lower sugar in the pig cells. This sugar is usually responsible for the quick rejection of the organ.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for research on Xenotransplantation. It approved the surgery citing it as a compassionate use emergency authorization. The FDA often grants this permission when patients have no other ways to treat their terminal condition.

Attempts to transplant animal organs to humans aren’t new. However, these patients often die after some time. However, New York researchers in September 2021 theorized that genetically engineered pigs might be helpful. They briefly placed a pig kidney into a dead person and observed its functioning.

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