The news: A pig’s heart has been transplanted into a human for the first time. A man with end-stage heart disease named David Bennett Sr received a transplant from a genetically modified pig heart during an eight-hour operation on Friday, January 7 at the University of Maryland Medical Center, which issued a statement last night. The operation was a last-ditch recovery attempt on the part of Bennett, 57, who had been found ineligible for a conventional heart transplant. He had been hospitalized for more than six weeks prior to the procedure for a life-threatening arrhythmia. “It was either to die or to do this transplant,” he said in a press release. “I want to live. I know it’s a hit in the dark, but it’s my last choice.
The technique: Ten genes from the donor pig were changed before the transplant could take place. Three of these genes are responsible for the rejection of pig organs in humans, so they were knocked out. Six genes were inserted to help control immune acceptance in pig heart, and an additional gene was turned off to stop excessive growth of pig heart tissue.
The Maryland team also used an investigational new drug to suppress the immune system and prevent rejection, as well as a new machine that pushed fluid through tissue to make sure the pig’s heart remained viable until to the procedure. The FDA gave the procedure an emergency green light on New Years Eve, according to to the New York Times.
And after: The demand for organs is vast, with nearly 107,000 people on the transplant waiting list in the United States, 17 of whom die every day, according to the Health Resources and Services Administration, a federal agency.
The first results look promising for Bennett, who is expected to come out of the heart-lung bypass machine he relied on to keep him alive today (Jan. 11). He will be very closely watched over the next few days and weeks for any signs. rejection or infection.
New frontier: While xenotransplantation, the process of transplanting animal organs or tissues into humans, has a long and often unsuccessful history, new gene-editing technologies are making it more viable. The genetically modified pork during last week’s operation was provided by Revivicor, one of several biotech companies working on the development of pig organs for transplantation into humans.
Revivicor was also behind a successful transplant of a pig kidney into a human patient last October, which was a major step in proving the viability of its techniques. In addition to Revivicor, Harvard scientist George Church has co-founded a company, eGensisis, which is working on using CRISPR gene editing to make animal organs viable for human transplantation, although its ambitious proposed timeline has fallen. at the water.
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- Pig heart transplanted into human for the first time
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- The genetic engineering behind pig-to-human transplants