Photo Credit: University of Maryland School of Medicine

Health USA15. January 2022

Hope for Many: First Organ Transplant of This Kind in History

In a highly experimental, unprecedented surgery, doctors have successfully placed a gene-edited pig heart into a patient. Days after the surgery, the 57-year-old heart recipient, David Bennett, is doing well. 

Bennett, who is ineligible for a human heart transplant, was without other options when he agreed to be the first patient to undergo the experimental surgery. 

The pig heart came from a 240-pound gene-edited pig that was bred specifically for Bennett, with scientists injecting, among others, six human genes into the donor pig’s genome in an effort to help Bennett’s immune system accept the organ. Bennett’s body did not immediately reject the organ and he is breathing on his own, both of which are positive first signs in this uncharted territory. 

“Doors are starting to open that will lead, I believe, to major changes in how we treat organ failure,” says David Klassen, transplant physician, and the chief medical officer of the United Network for Organ Sharing. With hundreds of thousands of Americans alone in need of organ transplants, this gene-edited pig heart is sparking hope in doctors and patients alike. 


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