Man gets a heart transplant… from a pig!

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https://www.livescience.com/pig-human-heart-transplant-death

Organ transplants are a very common and normal procedure. In fact, almost 100 are performed each day, according to Donate Life Colorado. Normally, organ donors are people who have unfortunately passed away recently, but not in David Bennett Sr.’s case. Bennett Sr. was a 57-year-old man who was suffering with a life-threatening heart disease and needed a heart transplant ASAP. However, Mr. Bennett was unfortunately rejected for a standard heart transplant by many health centers, and he would’ve died without receiving a new, healthy heart. His only option left was very risky and experimental, but he didn’t have much of a choice. “It was either die or do this transplant,” Mr. Bennett said before the surgery, according to officials at the University of Maryland Medical Center, “I want to live. I know it’s a shot in the dark, but it’s my last choice.” Bennett agreed to receive a heart from a genetically modified (GM) pig.
On January 7, 2022, the transplant took place, and surprisingly, it was successful. According to the New York Times, “It is the first successful transplant of a pig’s heart into a human being. The eight-hour operation took place in Baltimore on Friday, and the patient, David Bennett Sr. of Maryland, was doing well on Monday, according to surgeons at the University of Maryland Medical Center.” Bennett was stable and doing well on January 10th, just three days later. Dr. Bartley Griffith stated, “It’s working, and it looks normal. We are thrilled, but we don’t know what tomorrow will bring us. This has never been done before,” according to the New York Times. Everyone was immensely shocked by how amazing the operation went. In just the eight hours it took to perform the operation, history was changed.
Scientists have been working like crazy for years to create a genetically modified pig whose organs could function normally and not be rejected by the human body. Science has evolved enough recently that scientists have started using gene therapy and cloning technology to create genetically modified animal organs that can function in a human body. According to NPR, “Doctors for decades have sought to one day use animal organs for life-saving transplants.” Science and medicine are evolving very quickly. In no time, everyone will be getting heart transplants from GM pigs.
The heart that Mr. Bennett received had ten genetic modifications. According to the New York Times, “four genes were knocked out, or inactivated, including one that encodes a molecule that causes an aggressive human rejection response.”
A growth gene was also inactivated to prevent the pig’s heart from continuing to grow after it was implanted, said Dr. Mohiuddin, who, with Dr. Griffith, did much of the research leading up to the transplant. In addition, six human genes were inserted into the genome of the donor pig — modifications designed to make the porcine organs more tolerable to the human immune system.” There was tons of work that was needed if they wanted the operation to go smoothly.
On Wednesday, March 9th, 2022, David Bennett Sr. unfortunately passed away, according to a statement from the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore, where the transplant was performed. Although his exact cause of death wasn’t revealed, the medical center said Bennett’s condition started getting worse just days before his death. According to WebMd, “When it became clear that he would not recover, he was given compassionate palliative care and was able to communicate with his family during his final hours.” Bennett was the very first person to receive a pig heart transplant, and he changed history. There is obviously much more work and research that needs to be done, but who knows, maybe transplants from humans are a thing of the past.

Man Who Received First Modified Pig Heart Transplant Dies. (2022, March 9). WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/news/20220309/man-with-pig-heart-dies

NPR Cookie Consent and Choices. (2022, March 9). Npr. https://choice.npr.org/index.html?origin=https://www.npr.org/2022/03/09/1085420836/pig-heart-transplant

Rabin, R. C. (2022, January 11). In a First, Man Receives a Heart From a Genetically Altered Pig. The New York Times. Retrieved 2022, from https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/10/health/heart-transplant-pig-bennett.html