U.S. surgeons performed the world's first human pig heart transplant
U.S. surgeons performed the first-ever transplant of a genetically modified porcine heart into a living person. The patient survived the operation safely and is now under close supervision at the University of Maryland Medical Center. This achievement is the culmination of years of work by scientists from around the world. The genetically altered heart was provided by the regenerative medicine company Revivicor. The donor pig underwent about 10 gene modifications to reduce the risk of immune rejection in humans.
The recipient was 57-year-old David Bennett with a fatal heart defect. It was too severe a case for a simple transplant, so the U.S. FDA approved the surgery as a last resort in a critical situation.
When CRISPR genome-editing technology emerged more than 10 years ago, scientists were working to create a pool of usable human organs. After several successful operations on baboons, in 2021, two experimental pig kidney transplants were performed on humans – clinically dead patients hooked up to a ventilator – to record no signs of immune rejection.
Now surgeon Bartley Griffith is cautiously optimistic about Bennett’s condition. Within five days of the procedure, David’s immune system has not rejected the new organ, but it’s too early to judge for sure. In the near future, Bennett will be closely monitored and the long-term effects of this historic surgery will be studied.