US surgeons have successfully implanted a heart from a genetically modified pig in a 57-year-old man.
The “historic” procedure took place Friday, the University of Maryland Medical School said in a statement on Monday. While the patient’s prognosis is far from certain, it represents a major milestone for animal to human transplantation.
The patient, David Bennett, had been deemed ineligible for human transplant — a decision that is often taken when the recipient has very poor underlying health.
He is now recovering and being carefully monitored to determine how the new organ performs.
“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,” the Maryland resident had said a day before the surgery.
Bennett, who had spent the last several months bedridden on a heart-lung bypass machine, had added: “I look forward to getting out of bed after I recover.”
The Food and Drug Administration had granted emergency authorisation for the surgery on New Year’s eve as a last ditch effort for a patient who was unsuitable for conventional transplant.
“This was a breakthrough surgery and brings us one step closer to solving the organ shortage crisis,” said Bartley Griffith, who surgically 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.”
Pakistani doctor Muhammad Mohiuddin, who co-founded the university’s cardiac xenotransplantation programme, said the surgery was the culmination of years of research, involving pig-to-baboon transplants with survival times that exceeded nine months.
“The successful procedure provided valuable information to help the medical community improve this potentially life-saving method in future patients,” he said.
Speaking to a news outlet in Pakistan, Dr Mohiuddin, who hails from Karachi and is a graduate of the Dow University of Health Sciences, said: “We researched about the genetic makeup of a pig’s heart and learned to genetically modify it in any way through different genetic techniques.”
“Experiments have been done on a monkey’s heart for heart transplants for humans in the past, but they did not work out. However, the experiment on a pig’s heart did,” he said.
“We examined all animals to find out which of them is closest to humans and found a pig suitable for the experiment,” he added.
With input from APP