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US Surgeons Transplant Pig Heart Into Human Patient in First-Ever Operation

© REUTERS / UMSOMSurgeon performs pig heart transplant in Baltimore
Surgeon performs pig heart transplant in Baltimore - Sputnik International, 1920, 11.01.2022
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Surgeons in Baltimore, Maryland, have successfully performed a first-of-its-kind organ transplant of a genetically-modified pig heart into a human patient. The groundbreaking operation has the medical community excited over the growing potential of xenotransplantation.
The eight-hour surgery was performed at the University of Maryland Medical Center on Friday. The 57-year-old recipient of the pig heart was David Bennett Sr, who required the surgery after it had become the only option to save his life as he was deemed too sick to qualify for a human heart.
According to officials at the University of Maryland Medical Center, Bennett said before his surgery, “It was either die or do this transplant.” He added, “I want to live. I know it’s a shot in the dark, but it’s my last choice.”
Dr. Bartley Griffith, who first raised the possibility to Bennett, recounted his conversation with him: “I said, ‘We can’t give you a human heart; you don’t qualify. But maybe we can use one from an animal, a pig. It’s never been done before, but we think we can do it.’”
At first, Griffith was unsure if Bennett fully understood what he was suggesting, but when, “he said, ‘Well, will I oink?’” He knew he was on board.
Before the surgery could be performed, the US Food and Drug Administration had to give the transplant surgeons an emergency authorization.
© REUTERS / UMSOMDavid Bennett poses with surgeon before pig heart transplant in Baltimore
David Bennett poses with surgeon before pig heart transplant in Baltimore - Sputnik International, 1920, 11.01.2022
David Bennett poses with surgeon before pig heart transplant in Baltimore
The surgery has exceeded all previous xenotransplantation surgeries to date. According to doctors, Bennett is doing well, his new heart is doing most of the work, and he could come off the heart-lung bypass machine on Tuesday.
Xenotransplantation surgeries have failed in the past because the human body rejects the foreign organ. However, breakthroughs in gene editing have allowed for the development of pig hearts that the human body is less likely to reject. The heart Bennett received had four pig genes inactivated and six human genes inserted so the human immune system would be less likely to attack it.
If the surgery proves to be successful, it could pave the way for thousands of Americans to extend their lives and improve their quality of life.
© REUTERS / UMSOMSurgeons perform pig heart transplant in Baltimore
Surgeons perform pig heart transplant in Baltimore - Sputnik International, 1920, 11.01.2022
Surgeons perform pig heart transplant in Baltimore
According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, 41,354 Americans received a transplanted organ last year but close to half a million Americans are currently on a waiting list for an organ and about 12 people die a day waiting.
Dr. David Klassen, the chief medical officer of the United Network for Organ Sharing, believes that “this is a watershed event.”

“Doors are starting to open that will lead, I believe, to major changes in how we treat organ failure,” Klassen said before cautioning that “events like these can be dramatized in the press, and it’s important to maintain perspective."

"It takes a long time to mature a therapy like this,” he underscored.
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