Heart of Genetically Modified Pig Transplanted Into Man

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Jan. 10, 2022

In a groundbreaking operation that offers hope to people waiting for organ transplants, the heart of a genetically modified pig has been transplanted into a 57-year-old man who had end-stage heart disease.

The patient, David Bennett Sr., received the heart on Friday at the University of Maryland Medical Center. In a news release, school called the procedure “historic” and a “first of its kind transplant.” 

The operation was conducted after the FDA granted emergency authorization for the transplant through its expanded access (compassionate use) provision, the Medical Center said. Bennett had been judged ineligible for a human heart transplant because of his weak health, leaving the pig transplant the only option.

“It was either die or do this transplant. I want to live. I know it’s a shot in the dark, but it’s my last choice,” Bennett said the day before the surgery, according to the release.  “I look forward to getting out of bed after I recover.”

“This was a breakthrough surgery and brings us one step closer to solving the organ shortage crisis. There are simply not enough donor human hearts available to meet the long list of potential recipients,” said Bartley P. Griffith, M.D., who transplanted the pig heart.

“We are proceeding cautiously, but we are also optimistic that this first-in-the-world surgery will provide an important new option for patients in the future.”

The United Network for Organ Sharing says more than 106,000 people are on organ transplant waiting lists as of Monday. About 40,000 people received organ transplants last year, with about 3,800 of them being heart transplants. But because of the organ shortage, 17 people on waiting lists die daily, according to the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration.  

Scientists hope that xenotransplantation – implanting an organ from one species into another – will reduce the organ shortage and

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