U.S. Surgeons Successfully Transplant Pig Heart to Human For the First Time

Surgeons in the United States successfully transplanted a heart from a genetically-modified pig to a human being for the first time.

David Bennett, 57, received the pig heart in an experimental surgery on Jan. 7 and is doing well three days later, doctors at the University of Maryland Medical Center said in a statement.

“This was a breakthrough surgery and brings us one step closer to solving the organ shortage crisis,” Dr. Barley Griffith, the director of the cardiac transplant program at the medical center and who performed the operation, said.

“We are proceeding cautiously, but we are also optimistic that this first-in-the-world surgery will provide an important new option for patients in the future,” Griffith further said.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted emergency authorization for the surgery because it was the only option available for Bennett, who had a terminal heart disease.

Bennett had been deemed ineligible for a conventional heart transplant after reviewing his medical records, as well as for an artificial heart pump due to his arrhythmia.

“It was either die or do this transplant. I want to live,” Bennett said a day before the surgery.

The heart, which had undergone 10 gene edits, came from Revivicor, a regenerative medicine company based in Blacksburg, Virginia.

“Three genes — responsible for rapid antibody-mediated rejection of pig organs by humans — were ‘knocked out’ in the donor pig. Six human genes responsible for immune acceptance of the pig heart were inserted into the genome. Lastly, one additional gene in the pig was knocked out to prevent excessive growth of the pig heart tissue,” the medical center said.

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