The foundation said in a statement that the operation was carried out on Friday and showed for the first time that an animal heart can continue to function inside the human body without immediate rejection. David Bennett, 57, was deemed ineligible for a human heart transplant. The patient, who is based in Maryland, is subject to close follow-up by doctors to ensure that the new transplanted organ is working properly.
On the eve of the operation, Bennett said in comments reported by the medical school, “I was faced with two choices: Either I died or I had this transplant. I want to live. I realize that the operation is dangerous, but it is my last option.” “I can’t wait to get out of bed as soon as I recover,” said Bennett, who has spent recent months bedridden and living on a machine. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted emergency clearance for the surgery on New Year’s Eve, as a last-ditch step for a patient who did not qualify for the traditional transplant.
‘A pioneering surgical advance’
Surgeon Bartley Griffiths, who performed the operation, said: “This is a ground-breaking operation and brings us one step closer to resolving the organ shortage crisis.” “We are acting with caution, but we are also optimistic that this global precedent will provide a necessary new option for patients in the future,” Al-Jarrah added. The pig from which the heart was extracted has undergone a genetic modification to stop secreting a type of sugar that is generally present in all pig cells and leads to immediate rejection of the organ.
The genetic modification was done by Revivor, which also provided a pig kidney that surgeons successfully reconnected with the blood vessels of a brain-dead patient in New York in October. The pig’s heart used in the transplantation process was preserved in a machine before the operation, and the team also used a new experimental drug manufactured by the “Kenexa Pharmaceuticals” company, in addition to the usual medications to prevent the body from rejecting the transplanted organ by disrupting the immune system functions that usually lead to rejection of the transplant. About 110,000 Americans are still on the waiting list to receive a transplant, and more than 6,000 people who need such operations die annually in the country.
And transplants of animal organs into the human body are not new. Physicians have attempted transgender transplants since at least the 17th century, and the first experiments focused on monkeys. In 1984, a heart from a baboon was implanted in the body of a girl named “Baby Faye”, but the little girl did not live more than twenty days after the operation.
Heart valves from pigs have also been used extensively in human transplants, and their skin is used in transplants on people with major burns. Pigs are also an important source of organ donation because of their size and rapid growth, and also because of their many young children.