Surgeons at the University of Maryland said in a news release Monday that they have performed a groundbreaking transplant surgery, after a patient, David Bennett, 57, received a genetically modified pig heart,
Mr Bennett had terminal heart disease, and the pig heart was “the only currently available option,” according to the release, CNN reports.
He was deemed ineligible for a conventional heart transplant or an artificial heart pump after reviews of his medical records.
“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,” Mr Bennett said before the surgery, according to the release.
The US Food and Drug Administration granted emergency authorization for the surgery on December 31.
Prior to the transplant, three genes responsible for rejection of pig organs by human immune systems were removed from the donor pig, and one gene was taken out to prevent excessive pig heart tissue growth.
Also, six human genes responsible for immune acceptance were inserted.
According to CNN, Mr Bennett’s doctors will need to monitor him for days to weeks to see whether the transplant works to provide lifesaving benefits. He will also be monitored for immune system problems or other complications.
“There are simply not enough donor human hearts available to meet the long list of potential recipients,” surgeon Bartley Griffith who performed the transplant said in a statement.
“We are proceeding cautiously, but we are also optimistic that this first-in-the-world surgery will provide an important new option for patients in the future.”
Revivicor, a regenerative medicine company based in Blacksburg, Virginia, provided the heart.
A total of 106,632 people are on the national transplant waiting list, and 17 people die each day waiting for an organ, according to organdonor.gov.
The eight-hour operation took place in Baltimore on Friday, and the patient, David Bennett Sr. of Maryland, is back home and doing.
“It creates the pulse, it creates the pressure, it is his heart,” said Bartley Griffith, the director of the cardiac transplant programme at the medical centre. “It’s working and it looks normal.”
“We are thrilled, but we don’t know what tomorrow will bring us. This has never been done before.”
“Mr. Bennett decided to gamble on the experimental treatment because he would have died without a new heart, had exhausted other treatments and was too sick to qualify for a human donor heart,” family members and doctors said.