Maryland doctors perform the world’s first successful transplant of pig heart into a human

Maryland doctors perform the world’s successful transplant of genetically modified pig heart into a human.

The Maryland doctors performed the transplant to a 57-year-old Mr. David Bennett who had a rare heart condition.

David Bennett got the heart on Friday at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore and was doing well, according to a statement released by the University of Maryland Medicine on Monday.

Bennett had been hospitalized with arrhythmia; an irregular heartbeat.

Bennett was deemed ineligible for a human heart transplant after doctors reviewed his medical records, leaving the experimental surgery as his “sole choice for survival,” according to the statement. 

It didn’t say why he was disqualified.

“It was either die or do this transplant,” Bennett said in a statement the day before the surgery. “I want to live. I know it’s a shot in the dark, but it’s my last choice.”

On Friday morning, Maryland doctors removed the heart from the pig and put it in a device to preserve it until it was transplanted into Bennett.

“It’s now nestled in its little preservation chamber waiting for our call to action,” Bartley P. Griffith, the surgeon who did the transplant, said in the video before the surgery.

Pig skin and heart valves have previously been successfully transplanted into humans. Pigs are biologically similar to humans and primates in several aspects, making them suitable candidates for transplants.

Long thought to be blocked by a virus contained in pig cells that may infect human cells, researchers utilized a gene-editing technique called CRISPR to successfully remove the virus from the pig cells’ DNA in 2015.

Three genes in the pig’s heart that were “knocked out” would have caused the organ to be rejected, as well as another gene that would have prevented abnormal growth of the pig heart tissue, were “knocked out” in the pig whose heart was transplanted into Bennett.

Six human genes were added to cause the immune system of the recipient to accept the organ.

Despite the fact that Bennett was doing well three days after the treatment, the days ahead are not without risk. Doctors were “proceeding cautiously.”

In 1984, a baboon’s heart was transplanted into a newborn girl known as “Baby Fae” in possibly the most famous attempt at animal-to-human organ transplantation.

At the time, the procedure was considered a long chance, and fears that the child, Stephanie Fae Beauclair, might reject the heart were realized when she died of complications including kidney failure 21 days later.

The procedure on Friday was the largest animal-to-human organ transplant to date, as researchers have recently developed the technology to change genes sufficiently to increase the likelihood of successful transplants.

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