This week, a 58-year-old patient became the second person in the world to have a genetically modified pig’s heart transplanted – a new example of a very active area of research in recent years.
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Such an operation was first performed in 2022 at the same institution, the University of Maryland School of Medicine, in the United States.
Then-patient David Bennett died about two months after the procedure “due to a variety of factors, including poor health” before the transplant, the university wrote in a statement Friday.
Such transplants of animal organs into humans, so-called xenografts, could offer a solution to the chronic shortage of organ donations. There are currently more than 100,000 Americans on the transplant waiting list.
The new operation took place on September 20th. Lawrence Faucette, a retired former soldier, suffered from a serious heart condition that almost certainly doomed him. He was not eligible for a human heart transplant and this solution was therefore “the only option” for him, the press release said.
“At least now I have hope and a chance,” he explained before the intervention, according to the same source.
“We have no expectations other than to spend more time together,” his wife said. “It can be as simple as sitting on the porch and drinking coffee together.”
According to doctors, Lawrence Faucette is currently breathing on his own and his new heart is functioning well without help.
He is taking immunosuppressive treatments and “a new antibody therapy” to avoid rejection.
Xenografts present a challenge because the recipient’s immune system tends to attack the foreign organ. For this reason, pigs are genetically modified to reduce this risk as well.
Recently, kidney transplants from genetically modified pigs have also been carried out in brain-dead patients.
The Transplant Institute at NYU Langone Hospital in New York announced this month that it successfully operated on a pig kidney from a deceased person for two months, a record.