ICYMI: US man receives world-first pig heart transplant
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Cape Town – A 57-year-old man from the United States is recovering after successfully receiving a heart transplant from a pig at the weekend.
According to the BBC, David Bennett had a fatal disease and couldn’t leave the hospital while at the same time, doctors had deemed him ineligible for a human transplant due to his poor health.
Instead, Bennett took the chance on a genetically modified pig’s heart, which has never been successfully done before due to genetic differences, with previous patients suffering from serious infections of the immune system rejecting the organ.
“I know it’s a shot in the dark, but it’s my last choice,” Bennett had said prior to the surgery.
“It was either die or do the transplant,” he said.
The doctors who carried out the groundbreaking procedure received a special dispensation by the US medical regulator to proceed with the eight hour long surgery.
Meanwhile, South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported that the pig used for the transplant had been genetically modified to remove three genes associated with organ rejection.
At the same time, they also edited-in six human genes in aid of acceptance by the immune system. The research leading up to the surgery was years in the making as medical researchers looked at ways to source a pig’s organs as it was seen similar to that of a human.
Dr Bartley Griffith who performed the surgery said that a number of the organs can be treated and used in this way, and that it could be commercialised as a drug.
"In essence it would be on-demand delivery... You would have it delivered, removed and delivered," said Griffith.
"If that's true, we will obviously change the face of what's possible for people who now wait years for a heart transplant," he said.
Nearly 110,000 Americans are currently waiting for an organ transplant while more than 6,000 patients die each year waiting for one.