In the world of medicine, for the first time, Maryland doctors have transplanted a genetically modified pig’s heart into a patient in a last attempt to save his life.
The surgeons at the University of Maryland medical centre said that the patient was recovering well after the experimental surgery, though it would be too soon to tell if the operation had in fact been a success.
However, the transplant marks a step in the quest to someday use animal organs for life-saving operations. The transplant demonstrated that a heart from a genetically modified animal can function in a human without quick rejection as per the doctor.
David Bennett, 57, a handyman, knew there was no guarantee this experiment could be a success, but he was dying as well as ineligible for a human heart transplant and was out of options, his son 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,” Bennett said a day before the surgery.
Bennett was eventually seen breathing on his own while still connected to a heart-lung machine to help his new heart. The next few weeks will be critical as Bennett recovers from the surgery and doctors carefully monitor how his heart is faring.
“If this works, there will be an endless supply of these organs for patients who are suffering,” said Dr Muhammad Mohiuddin, scientific director of the university’s animal-to-human transplant program.
The Maryland surgeons said that this time was that they had used a heart from a pig that had undergone gene-editing to remove sugar in its cells that is responsible for that hyper-fast organ rejection.
“I think you can characterize it as a watershed event,” Dr. David Klassen, Unos’ chief medical officer, said of the Maryland transplant.
Still, Klassen cautioned that it was only a first tentative step into exploring whether this time around, xenotransplantation might finally work.