In a groundbreaking medical science achievement, a 57-year-old man with a life-threatening disease has been given a heart implant from a genetically modified pig.
This generates hope for a score of patients worldwide with failing organs.
Landmark transplant raises hoped for human beings
According to surgeons of the University of Maryland Medical Centre, the patient, David Bennet Sr., was doing well after receiving a pig’s heart in an operation conducted in Baltimore.
Dr. Bartley Griffith, who performed the operation, noted the transplant is working fine and the whole medical community is thrilled.
However, he indicated since this operation has never been done before, nothing can be said for the future of this technology.
BREAKING; In a medical first, doctors transplanted a pig heart into a human in a last-ditch effort to save his life. A Maryland hospital says the patient is doing well three days after the highly experimental surgery. https://t.co/hAQcYbwaYl
— The Associated Press (@AP) January 10, 2022
Almost 41,354 Americans were transplanted with different organs last year, of whom more than half received kidneys.
However, due to the chronic shortage of organs, almost a dozen people die every single day. Although a record-breaking 3,817 people received hearts last year, the demand is still higher than ever today.
Research funded in the last decade helped scientists develop pigs, using cloning and gene editing technologies, whose hearts can work fine with human bodies.
In the nine-hour surgery, doctors replaced his heart with one from a 1-year-old, 240-pound pig gene-edited and bred specifically for this purpose.
— USA TODAY (@USATODAY) January 10, 2022
Thus, scientists believe these sorts of new technologies will usher in a new era of scientific development; this will ensure crucial organs will no longer be in short supply, and almost half a million Americans will receive the organs they need.
Animal to human organ transplant is not new
The Chief Medical Officer of the United Network for Organ Sharing, Dr. David Klassen called it a “watershed event,” saying it will open new doors in organ failure treatment technologies.
However, according to him, even well-matched human body organs can be rejected by another body, so many aspects of this technology still need to be studied.
Doctors decided to gamble on surgery, as the patient would have died without receiving a new heart; he was too sick to qualify for a human donor heart.
While the patient is still treated with a heart lungs by-pass machine, experts noted this is not unusual after a heart transplant surgery.
Likewise, he is being monitored for any potential infection, prominently porcine retrovirus, a pig virus that can be transmitted to humans.
Before the surgery, the patient said it is his do-or-die chance and even if it is a shot in the dark, this is the only possible option for him to live.
Xenotransplantation, a process of transplanting animal organs to humans, has long been a field of study for scientists.
For instance, Chimpanzee’s kidneys were transplanted to some patients in the 1960s, but no one lived more than nine months after receiving the organ.
Similarly, a baboon’s heart was transplanted in an infant patient in 1983, but the baby died 20 days after surgery.
However, according to scientists, pigs have an advantage over other animals for human beings, as they can be raised to normal human size within six months.