In a never before seen medical miracle, doctors transplanted a pig’s heart into a severely ill patient to save his life at a hospital in Maryland, USA. Reports say he is doing well after the surgery.It is not yet certain that the operation will work, but if it does, it will bring a breakthrough in the decades-long search for ways to use animal organs to save human lives.
Doctors at the University of Medical Medical Center stated that the transplant showed that a heart from a genetically modified animal could work in the human body without immediately rejecting it.
The patient, David Bennett, 57, went ahead with the surgery because he had limited options and was willing to try whatever worked. On Monday, January 10, Bennett was breathing on his own while connected to a machine to help with his new heart. Doctors will carefully monitor Bennett to see how his heart fares in the next few weeks.
There is a shortage of human organ donations, so scientists continue to figure out ways to use animal organs instead.
Past attempts to use animal organs for transplants have failed, mainly because the patients’ bodies rejected the organs. Incredibly, in 1984 a dying infant lived for 21 days with a baboon heart.
The Maryland surgeons used a heart from a pig that had some of its characteristics changed. Sugar responsible for immediate rejection was removed from its cell. Many biotech companies are developing pig organs for human transplant; the one used for Bennett’s operation came from Revivicor, a branch of United Therapeutics.
David Bennett is kept under close watch, and only time will tell how successful the operation was.