Washington: It was considered a path-breaking medical feat. However, it has now hit a dead end.
A man who received a heart transplant from a genetically modified pig has died two months after the operation.
David Bennett, 57, had received a transplant on January 7 and passed away on March 8, the University of Maryland Medical System said in a statement.
“His condition began deteriorating several days ago. After it became clear that he would not recover, he was given compassionate palliative care. He was able to communicate with his family during his final hours,” the statement said.
Following surgery, the transplanted heart had performed very well for several weeks without any signs of rejection, the hospital added.
In the time after his surgery, Bennett spent time with family, participated in physical therapy, watched the Super Bowl, and spoke often about wanting to go home to see his dog Lucky.
“He proved to be a brave and noble patient who fought all the way to the end. We extend our sincerest condolences to his family,” said Bartley Griffith, the surgeon who led the procedure.
Bennett came to the hospital in the eastern US state of Maryland in October 2021. He was bedridden and placed on an emergency life support machine. He had been deemed ineligible for human transplant — a decision that is often taken when the recipient has very poor underlying health.
“We have gained invaluable insights learning that the genetically modified pig heart can function well within the human body while the immune system is adequately suppressed,” said Muhammad Mohiuddin, director of the university’s cardiac xenotransplantation program.
“We remain optimistic and plan on continuing our work in future clinical trials.”
While some pig organs and cells, notably its heart valve and skin, have been used in humans before, this was the first time a full porcine heart has been transplanted into a human. The pioneer in this field of transplanting animal organs — called xenotransplantation — is Pakistani-American Dr. Mohammed Mohiuddin, a graduate of Karachi’s Dow Medical College, who with Dr. Griffith set up UMSOM’s Cardiac Xenotransplantation Program and was part of the surgery team.
Doctors had to go in for a porcine heart transplant rather than a conventional one because Bennett’s condition did not allow him to qualify for a human transplant. He had been admitted to the hospital more than six weeks earlier with life-threatening arrhythmia and was connected to a heart-lung bypass machine, called extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), to remain alive, the university said.