- BBC News World
An American became the first person in the world to receive a heart transplant from a genetically modified pig.
The patient, identified as David Bennett, is doing well three days after the seven-hour experimental procedure performed in Baltimore, according to doctors.
The transplant was seen as the last hope of saving Bennett’s life., although it is not yet clear what their chances of long-term survival are.
“It was either dying or doing this transplant,” explained 57-year-old Bennet a day before the surgery.
“I know it’s a shot in the dark, but it’s my last option,” he added.
To carry out this intervention, the doctors at the University of Maryland Medical Center received special permission from the US health authorities, which was granted on the basis that if it were not executed, Bennett would have died.
Transplantation could mean a major change in the lives of many people around the world.
For the medical team that performed the transplant, it marks the culmination of years of research.
Surgeon Bartley Griffith said that this operation would bring the world “one step closer to solving the organ shortage crisis”, according to a statement from the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
That crisis means that 17 people die every day in the United States waiting for an organ transplant. According to OrganDonor.gov., There are more than 100,000 patients on the waiting list.
The possibility of using animal organs to meet human demand – a process called xenotransplantation – has long been considered and the use of pig heart valves is already common.
A pig as a donor
In October 2021, a team of surgeons in New York announced that they had successfully transplanted a pig kidney into a person. At the time, the operation was the most advanced experiment in the field to date.
However, the recipient on that occasion was a brain-dead patient who had no hope of recovery.
Bennett, for his part, hopes his transplant will allow him to get on with his life. He was bedridden for six weeks before surgery, hooked up to a machine that kept him alive after he was diagnosed with terminal heart disease.
“I hope I can get out of bed after I recover.”he said last Thursday.
For now, it is not clear what will happen next. The pig used in the transplant had been genetically modified to remove a gene that produces a sugar that triggers an immune response in humans, AFP reported.
Griffith said they were “proceeding with caution”, closely monitoring Bennett, while his son David Bennett Jr admitted to the AP news agency that they are currently in “the unknown.”
He added that his father “is aware of the magnitude of what has been done and really realizes how important it is.”
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.