In a major medical breakthrough, surgeons at the University of Maryland School of Medicine performed first-of-its-kind surgery to implant a heart from a genetically modified pig into a human with a terminal illness. The patient who received the heart of pig has been identified as 57-year-old David Bennett, a resident of Maryland. The hospital, where this highly experimental surgery was performed, said that the patient is doing well three days after the surgery.
While it is too early to say that the operation was completely successful or if it really will work, it is a positive step in the decades-long quest to use animal organs to save human lives. According to doctors, the transplant clearly shows that the heart of a genetically modified animal can function in humans without immediate rejection.
According to the son of Bennett, his father knew that there is no guarantee that the surgery would be successful but in any case, he was dying. “He was ineligible for a human heart transplant and there were no other options,” his son was quoted as saying by some media reports.
“It was either die or do this transplant. I want to live. I know it’s a shot in the dark, but it’s my last choice,” Bennett was quoted as saying a day before the surgery, according to a statement provided by the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
This is a significant development considering the huge shortage of human organs. Despite several efforts to make people aware of organ donation, there are thousands of people who die every year because of a lack of human organs for transplant. Last year, less than 4,000 heart transplants were done in the United States last year. This was a record in a sort. The shortage of human organs is driving scientists to find alternatives and therefore they are using animal organs.
“If this works, there will be an endless supply of these organs for patients who are suffering,” said Dr Muhammad Mohiuddin, scientific director of the university’s animal-to-human transplant program.