Mar 9, 2022 - Science

First patient to receive pig heart transplant dies after 2 months

The heart transplant.
Members of the surgical team hold the pig heart used in David Bennett's transplant on Jan. 7, 2022. Photo courtesy of University of Maryland School of Medicine

The first person to receive a heart from a genetically modified pig died on Tuesday, two months after the experimental operation, the University of Maryland Medical Center announced.

Driving the news: The hospital said David Bennett's condition began to deteriorate several days earlier but did not identify an exact cause of death.

  • Bennett, 57, received the heart in a process known as xenotransplantation, which refers to the implantation of tissues and organs from a different species.
  • The hospital said the transplanted heart "performed very well for several weeks without any signs of rejection."

Context: Around 110,000 Americans are waiting for an organ transplant and more than 6,000 die each year before receiving one, according to the Maryland hospital.

  • Researchers hope the procedure can allow more patients to get needed transplants because of a shortage of donated organs.

What they're saying: "We have gained invaluable insights learning that the genetically modified pig heart can function well within the human body while the immune system is adequately suppressed,” said Muhammad Mohiuddin, a surgeon who pioneered xenotransplantation at the hospital.

  • Bartley Griffith, the surgeon who performed the transplant, said, "As with any first-in-the-world transplant surgery, this one led to valuable insights that will hopefully inform transplant surgeons to improve outcomes and potentially provide lifesaving benefits to future patients."
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