A 57-year-old US man has become the first in the world to successfully receive a transplant of a genetically modified pig heart.
The surgery was carried out by a group on surgeons at the University of Maryland School of Medicine who were granted special authorisation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to conduct the surgery on New Year’s Eve.
It has been three days since the operation took place and the patient is said to be doing well whilst under constant monitoring.
The patient was not eligible for a donor transplant at any of the leading transplant centres that reviewed his medical records so put himself forward for the operation.
Patient, David Bennet said: “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,”, in a statement made to UMMC.
This is the first time a genetically modified animal heart has functioned within a human body without immediate rejection according to the Medical Centre.
Bartley P. Griffith, MD, who surgically transplanted the pig heart into the patient said: “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”.
Animal organ transplants, also known as xenotransplantation was first tried in the 1980’s. A widely known example of this being Stephanie Fae Beaculair, more commonly referred to as ‘Baby Fae’, who received a baboon heart after being born with a fatal heart condition. The operation took place as Loma Linda University in California but was unsuccessful after a month due to the body’s immune system rejecting the foreign heart.
Pig heart valves are frequently used in heart surgeries to replace failing valves in humans, therefore leading to the use of the genetically modified pig heart.
Dr Muhammad M. Mohiuddin, MD, Professor of Surgery at UMSOM, an expert in the field said: “This is the culmination of years of highly complicated research to hone this technique in animals with survival times that have reached beyond nine months. The FDA used our data and data on the experimental pig to authorize the transplant in an end-stage heart disease patient who had no other treatment options.
“The successful procedure provided valuable information to help the medical community improve this potentially life-saving method in future patients.”