Surgeons in the United States (US) have carried out the world’s second transplant of a genetically modified pig’s heart to a human being.
According to a statement issued by the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM), the surgery was carried out on Lawrence Faucette, a 58-year-old patient who had terminal heart disease.
Information Nigeria reports that in 2022, the Maryland team had performed the world’s first transplant of a genetically modified pig’s heart into a dying man, David Bennett.
Bennett however died two months after the procedure.
Faucette is said to have been deemed ineligible for a traditional transplant with a human heart due to his pre-existing peripheral vascular disease and complications with internal bleeding.
This transplant of a pig’s heart, which took place on Wednesday was therefore the only option available.
“My only real hope left is to go with the pig heart, the xenotransplant.
“At least now I have hope, and I have a chance,” Faucette had said before the procedure.
The US Food and Drug Administration granted emergency approval for the surgery on September 15 through its single patient investigational new drug (IND) “compassionate use” pathway.
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This approval process is used when an experimental medical product, is the only option available for a patient faced with a serious or life-threatening medical condition.
Current efforts focus on pigs, which are thought to be ideal donors for humans because of their organ size, their rapid growth and large litters, and the fact they are already raised as a food source.
The pig heart, provided by Blacksburg, Virginia-based Revivicor, has 10 genetic modifications, knocking out some pig genes and adding some human ones to make it more acceptable to the human immune system.
According to the statement, Faucette is currently breathing on his own, and his heart is functioning well “without any assistance from supportive devices.”
“He is recovering and communicating with his loved ones. This is only the second time in the world that a genetically modified pig heart has been transplanted into a living patient,” the statement reads.
Bartley P. Griffith, who surgically transplanted the pig heart into both the first and second patient, said the doctors are grateful to Faucette for his bravery and willingness to help advance their knowledge of the field.
“We are hopeful that he will get home soon to enjoy more time with his wife and the rest of his loving family,” he said.