Man Gets His Heart Replaced With Genetically Modified Pig’s Heart


By Mayukh Saha / Truth Theory

A man from the US is the first person ever to receive a pig’s heart in a heart transplant. 

David Bennett is presently doing well 3 days after the difficult surgery. The surgery in Baltimore was completely experimental and took approximately seven hours to get done.

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Transplanting the pig’s heart was the last hope of saving David’s life even though he was unsure of his survival in the long term.

Mr. Bennett explained that it was either “die or do this transplant” for him. 

“I know it’s a shot in the dark, but it’s my last choice,” he said.

The University of Maryland Medical Center received special dispensation from the US medical regulator to carry out this transplant. The doctors based this on the fact that Mr. Bennett would have died from the terminal disease if not for this surgery.

The patient was not eligible to receive a human heart as he was in extremely poor health. 


The Genetically Modified Pig Was Perfect For The Transplant

The pig was genetically modified, where several genes were knocked out, which would have been rejected by Mr. Bennett’s body. This procedure could change how people lead their lives as it marks the culmination of several years of research. 

Such a surgery could bring the world “one step closer to solving the organ shortage crisis”, as believed by Surgeon Bartley Griffith. Around 17 people die each day in the US while waiting for a transplant while more than 100,000 people are left on the waiting list.

Dr. Christine Lau, who is the chair of the Department of Surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, was present in the OT during the procedure.

“He’s at more of a risk because we require more immunosuppression, slightly different than we would normally do in a human-to-human transplant. How well the patient does from now is, you know, it’s never been done before so we really don’t know,” she reported.

“People die all the time on the waiting list, waiting for organs. If we could use genetically engineered pig organs they’d never have to wait, they could basically get an organ as they needed it. Plus, we wouldn’t have to fly all over the country at night-time to recover organs to put them into recipients.”

The Demand For Transplantation Is Rising Exponentially

Xenotransplantation by using animal tissues had always been considered to meet the high demands. The use of pig heart valves is already quite common.

Surgeons in New York had successfully transplanted a pig’s kidney into a person in October 2021That experiment was the most advanced one in the field by far but the patient was brain dead and had no chances of recovery.

This huge milestone has offered hope to solve the problem of donor human organ shortages. There is a long way to go and it needs to be determined if transplanting animal organs are the right way to go. The heart of a pig is quite similar to a human, anatomically, but is neither ideal nor identical. It is possible to put them in and get them to work but is not as good as receiving a human heart. 

Organ rejection is a huge issue. These genetically modified pigs lack several genes that can cause organ rejection and are cloned with genes “knocked out” and reared until they reach the ripe age for harvesting. 

It is quite early to know how Mr. Bennett’s body would react to the pig’s heart. The doctors believe that such a surgery was a gamble, the gains are huge but the risks are higher.

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Mr. Bennett is hoping that this surgery will let him live his life. He had been ridden on the bed for 6 weeks before the procedure. He was stuck to a machine that kept him alive after he was diagnosed with a terminal cardiac disease.

 “I look forward to getting out of bed after I recover,” he said last week.


Mr. Bennett was breathing on his own on Monday while he was being monitored, but what happens next is uncertain. 

Mr. Griffith was carefully monitoring the patient while the patient’s family was left “in the unknown at this point”. The patient’s son, David Bennett Jr added that he realized the magnitude of such a procedure and the importance of it.

“We’ve never done this in a human and I like to think that we, we have given him a better option than what continuing his therapy would have been,” Mr. Griffith said. “But whether [he will live for] a day, week, month, year, I don’t know.”

Image Credits: University Of Maryland School of Medicine

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