In the United States, surgery at the University of Maryland Medical School successfully implanted a genetically modified pig heart into a human patient. This is a single procedure of its kind and has never been carried out before.
The patient, David Bennett, was considered unfit for human transplantation and spent the last few months in bed on a life support machine. “Or die or do this transplant. I want to live. I know it’s a blow in the dark, but this is my last choice,” Bennett said one day before the surgery.
Food and Drug Administration has granted emergency clearance for surgery on New Year’s Eve. “This was a revolutionary surgery and brings us one step closer to solving the crisis of organ deficiency,” said Bartley Griffith, the doctor who surgically transplanted the pig’s heart.
The donor pig had undergone a genetic modification procedure to eliminate a gene that produces a particular sugar, which would otherwise trigger a strong immune response and lead to organ rejection (by the way, do you know that the UK is aiming to genetically modify foods?). It’s a surgical procedure designed to make history… and that can help all those who are waiting for an organ transplant.
In the United States, some 110,000 people are currently waiting for an organ transplant and more than 6,000 patients die each year before obtaining one, according to official data. To satisfy this ever-increasing demand, medicine has long been studying the possibility of “xenotraplants” (recently, however, the first artificial heart was implanted).