The heart of a genetically modified pig has been successfully transplanted into a human

It’s a leap for medicine. American surgeons have successfully transplanted a heart from a genetically modified pig into a human patient, a world first, the University of Maryland School of Medicine announced on Monday.

The operation was carried out on Friday and showed for the first time that an animal heart could continue to function inside a human without immediate rejection, the institution said in a statement.

About that: Human organ transplants from pigs are getting closer

David Bennett, 57, who received the porcine heart, was declared ineligible for a human transplant. It is now closely monitored by doctors to make sure the new organ is functioning properly.

“It was either death or this transplant. I want to live. I know it’s pretty hit and miss, but it was my last option, ”the Maryland resident said a day before his operation, according to the medical school. “I can’t wait to be able to get out of bed once I’m well,” said David Bennett, who has spent the last few months bedridden and hooked up to a machine that kept him alive.

Also read: Surgeons manage to transplant pig kidney into brain-dead woman

A solution to respond to the organ shortage

The US Drugs Agency (FDA) gave the green light for the operation on New Years Eve. “This is a major surgical breakthrough and one that brings us one step closer to a solution to the drug shortage. ‘organs,’ commented Bartley Griffith, who performed the transplant.

The pig the heart comes from has been genetically modified to no longer produce a type of sugar that is normally present in all pig cells and that causes immediate rejection of the organ. This genetic modification was made by the Revivicor company, which also provided a pig kidney that surgeons had successfully connected to the blood vessels of a brain-dead patient in New York City in October.

For further: Dog, monkey, pig: the great bestiary in the history of transplants

Nearly 110,000 Americans are currently on the organ transplant waiting list, and more than 6,000 people in need of transplants die nationwide each year.

Xenografts – from animal to human – are not new. Doctors have attempted cross-species transplants since at least the 17th century, with the earliest experiments focusing on primates. In 1984, a baboon heart was transplanted into a baby, but the little one, nicknamed “Baby Fae”, only survived 20 days.

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