David Bennett, a 57-year-old patient with end-stage heart disease, has received the transplant at the University of Maryland School of Medicine last week. Bennett was considered too sick to be placed on the waiting list for a human heart. Given the urgency of his case, Bennett was seen as an acceptable candidate for the risky but scientifically impactful pig heart transplant, a procedure that has gone on for years.
Researchers and healthcare professionals have already teamed up to perform xenotransplantation (the interspecific transfer of organs, body fluids, or other tissues), such as with pig kidneys in living humans. Scientists have always been concerned that the genes of the virus (known as endogenous porcine retroviruses) could infect human recipients, a concern that only began to fade with the successful transplantation of pancreatic cells. pigs in humans in 2010. Since then, research teams have transplanted pig hearts. in baboons in the hope that a similar procedure may one day save a human life.
The heart Bennett received was from a pig developed by Revivicor, a solidify responsible for the genetic engineering of “xeno-organs” before transplantation. To prepare the heart, Revivicor modified 10 of the genes of the donor animal. Four genes were removed because they would otherwise have produced antibodies generally responsible for rejection of the transplant or for encouraging heart growth after the transplant was terminated. The other six were introduced to human genes to help Bennett’s body have a better chance of accepting the donated heart.
Three days after the procedure, Bennett reportedly showed signs of acceptance. While immune rejection can take several weeks to set in, a few successful first days can hold promise. Bennett was supported by a heart-lung bypass machine after the transplant, as well as immunosuppressive drugs to avoid potential rejection.
“This pig’s heart has worked very well, beyond our expectations,” said Muhammad M. Mohiuddin, professor of surgery at the University of Maryland, in a video for NewScientist. “We saw no sign of rejection.”
If Bennett’s transplant (and others who have followed it) prove to be successful in the long term, xenografted hearts could offer a beacon of health and hope for those who would otherwise be on waiting lists. traditionally long. Such lists are often six months long, if not longer.