MEDICINE- In Maryland, American surgeons have successfully transplanted a heart from a genetically modified pig into a 57-year-old patient.
Julien Vattaire –
A world first that could be a milestone. In the United States, a patient had a heart transplant from a genetically modified pig. David Bennett, 57 and declared ineligible to receive a human transplant, underwent the operation, which is a xenograft, last Friday. Previously, the US Medicines Agency (FDA) had given the green light for the operation on New Year’s Eve.
This is a major surgical breakthrough and one that brings us one step closer to a solution to organ shortage.
“It was either death or this transplant. I want to live. I know it’s pretty hit and miss, but it was my last option,” the Maryland resident said a day before his operation, according to the University of Maryland School of Medicine, which released the information on Monday. “I can’t wait to be able to get out of bed once I’m well.”, continued David Bennett, who spent the last few months bedridden and plugged into a machine that kept him alive.
“This is a major surgical breakthrough and brings us one step closer to a solution to the organ shortage”, commented Bartley Griffith, the surgeon who performed the transplant. “We are proceeding with caution, but are also optimistic that this world first will provide an essential new option for patients in the future.”, added the doctor.
How has the porcine heart been adapted to humans?
The transplanted heart comes from a pig that has been genetically modified so that it no longer produces a type of sugar that is normally present in all pig cells and that causes immediate rejection of the organ. Then, the porcine heart was stored in a machine before the operation and the team also used an experimental new drug from Kiniksa Pharmaceuticals, in addition to the usual anti-rejection drugs, to suppress the immune system and prevent the body from rejecting the organ.
Xenografts, from animal to human, could provide an answer to organ shortage. In the United States alone, nearly 110,000 Americans are currently on the organ transplant waiting list, and more than 6,000 people in need of transplants die each year in the country.
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