Man receives first successful transplant of genetically-modified pig heart into human body
The transplant was considered the last hope of saving the man's life
A man in the US has become the first person in the world to get a heart transplant from a genetically-modified pig.
David Bennett, 57, is safely in recovery from the seven-hour procedure which took place on Friday, with doctors monitoring his condition.
Bennett had been deemed ineligible for a human heart transplant due to his poor health.
However doctors at the University of Maryland Medical Center were granted a special dispensation by the US medical regulator to carry out the experimental procedure on the basis that he would have otherwise died, the BBC reports.
The day before the surgery, Bennett said: "It was either die or do this transplant.
"I know it's a shot in the dark, but it's my last choice."
It is the first time a genetically modified animal heart has been transplanted into a human body without being immediately rejected.
— Univ. of Maryland Medical Center (@UMMC) January 10, 2022
The pig heart had been supplied by a regenerative medicine company called Revivicor, who had used a combination of years of breeding and genetic editing to produce a suitable donor.
The 240-pound male pig had been genetically modified to not have three genes in its DNA that would have led to the heart being rejected by Bennett. It also had six human genes added that would cause the heart to be accepted, the Independent reports.
If more operations of this kind can happen in the future, then there are hopes that this could help tackle the organ shortage that the US is experiencing.
More than 100,000 people are on the waiting list for transplants. The crisis means that 17 people a year in the US die waiting for transplant.
In a release from the University of Maryland School of Medicine, surgeon Bartley Griffith said: "This was a breakthrough surgery and brings us one step closer to solving the organ shortage crisis. There are simply not enough donor human hearts available to meet the long list of potential recipients."
Before this, the most advanced operation of this kind took place in October last year when surgeons in New York successfully transplant a pig's kidney into a person. However, the recipient was already brain dead and had no hope of recovery.
Bennett had been bedridden for six weeks in the lead up to the surgery and had been attached to a machine that was keeping him alive after he was diagnosed with terminal heart disease.
It is not known what his long-term chances of survival are though at this stage.
Griffith told the New York Times that the pig heart is "working and it looks normal," adding that they were "thrilled, but we don't know what tomorrow will bring."
Bennett's son, David Bennett Jr, said that the procedure was "nothing short of a miracle."
- 21-year-old woman becomes youngest person to receive a face transplant in the US
- The world’s first heartless human who lived without a pulse
- Wrestler Jimmy Rave dies aged 39 after having both legs amputated