World first: American surgeons have successfully transplanted a pig's heart into a human!
Steph Deschamps / January 11, 2022
U.S. surgeons have successfully transplanted a heart from a genetically modified pig into a human patient, a world first, the University of Maryland School of Medicine announced Monday.
The operation was conducted Friday and showed for the first time that an animal heart could continue to function inside a human without immediate rejection, the institution said in a statement.
David Bennett, 57, who received the pig heart, had been declared ineligible to receive a human transplant. He is now being closely monitored by doctors to ensure that the new organ is functioning properly.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave the operation the green light on New Year's Eve.
This is a major surgical breakthrough and brings us one step closer to a solution to the organ shortage, commented Bartley Griffith, who performed the transplant.
The pig from which the heart came was genetically modified to no longer produce a type of sugar normally present on all pig cells that causes immediate rejection of the organ.
This genetic modification was performed by the company Revivicor, which had also provided a pig kidney that surgeons had successfully connected to the blood vessels of a brain-dead patient in New York in October.
Nearly 110,000 Americans are currently on the waiting list for an organ transplant and more than 6,000 people who would need a transplant die each year in the country.
Xenotransplants -- from animal to human -- are not new. Doctors have been attempting cross-species transplants since at least the 17th century, with early experiments focusing on primates.
In 1984, a baboon heart was transplanted into a baby, but the baby, nicknamed Baby Fae, survived only 20 days.