A man with terminal heart illness receives a transplant of genetically engineered pig heart in a medical first.

12th January, 2022.      //   Health  // 

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A 57-year-old Maryland man is doing well three days after getting a genetically modified pig heart in a first-of-its-kind transplant surgery, University of Maryland Medicine reported in a news release Monday. David Bennett had fatal heart illness, and the pig heart was “the only currently viable choice,” according to the announcement. After reviewing his medical data, Bennett was declared ineligible for a traditional heart transplant or a mechanical heart pump. According to the announcement, Bennett said before the surgery, “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.”

The US Food and Drug Administration granted emergency authorization for the surgery on December 31.

Three genes that cause human immune systems to reject pig organs were removed from the donor pig, and one gene was eliminated to avoid excessive pig heart tissue growth. Six human genes involved in immunological acceptance were introduced into the genome. Bennett’s doctors will have to keep an eye on him for days to weeks to see if the transplant succeeds to save his life. He’ll be kept on the lookout for any difficulties with his immune system or other issues.

In a statement, surgeon Dr. Bartley P. Griffith said, “There are simply not enough donor human hearts available to meet the long list of possible recipients.” “We’re taking it slow, but we’re confident that this first-of-its-kind operation will give a valuable new alternative for patients in the future.”
According to the news announcement, Revivicor, a regenerative medicine business based in Blacksburg, Virginia, gave the heart. According to organdonor.gov, there are 106,657 persons on the national transplant waiting list, and 17 people die each day waiting for an organ.

When Art Caplan, a New York University professor of bioethics, got the news of Bennett’s transplant, he was a little nervous. “Based on their animal studies, I hope they have the facts to back up trying this now,” he said. He claimed that the United States has a “severe” organ scarcity for transplants. Engineering animal parts, he feels, is a solution. “The question is, can we get there with the first volunteers in mind?” he inquired. For many years, pig heart valves have been transplanted into people.

Surgeons in New York successfully tried the transplant of a genetically engineered pig kidney into a brain-dead woman in October. It’s too soon to declare the heart transplant a success, according to Caplan. Bennett remarked that if he enjoys a decent quality of life for months, that designation will come. Nonetheless, he has the potential to die. The researchers must learn something that can be applied to future transplants, regardless of the result, he noted. He also suggested that an independent evaluation of the evidence used to make the decision to perform this first transplant be conducted.
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According to him, the other ethical concern is permission. It should come from someone other than the patient, who is more likely to agree to the procedure if he is in imminent danger of dying. “Consent for the imminently dying is important to get … but it’s not enough,” he said, suggesting a research ethics committee weigh in. “You want someone else to say, ‘Yes, we agree, this isn’t a crazy, too hazardous thing to try.’ ” According to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, more than 40,000 transplants were performed in 2021, a new high.

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