Man Gets New Heart from Genetically Modified Pig
A 57-year-old man from Maryland has become the first person to receive a heart that was grown in a genetically altered pig, according to the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM). After years of research into using pig organs to supplement a critical shortage of human organs, this marks an outstanding achievement.
David Bennet underwent a procedure on January 7 that was reported to take at least seven hours at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore.
Since this is unprecedented, they do not know what the long-term effects are, but so far, he’s doing well since the surgery, according to reports from the hospital.
According to the New York Times, Bennet had been connected to a heart-lung bypass machine and remained on it before the surgery. He has passed the 48-hour mark that is considered critical to know whether the organ will be rejected.
Before the surgery, Bennet ran out of options. He was too ill to undergo a human transplant and was ineligible for an artificial heart pump due to a life-threatening arrhythmia, according to UMSOM.
“It was either die or do this transplant,” said Bennet before the surgery. “I want to live. I know it’s a shot in the dark, but it’s my last choice.”
According to UMSOM, 3 genes responsible for human rejection were “knocked out” in the pig while adding six additional genes into the pig’s genome needed for human immune acceptance. Also, one more gene was knocked out to ensure the pig’s heart would not continue to grow inside a human body.
Medical Researchers have long been hoping to use pigs for life-saving human organ transplants, and they had a breakthrough in October when surgeons at NYU Langone Health in New Your City successfully attached a pig kidney to a brain-dead human body. They observed the kidney functioning on the body, which was on life support, for 54 hrs as a part of the study. Pigs are seen as the best choice for future transplants since they can reach adult size in 6 months, and their heart valves have already been used for human transplants.
According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, 17 people die everyday waiting for an organ transplant.