For the first time in the history of medicine, and certainly setting an impressive precedent for the future of medicine, a team of American surgeons from the University of Maryland School of Medicine has successfully performed a heart transplant from a genetically modified pig to a human.
The operation was carried out last Friday the 7th, confirming today that the heart of an animal can keep beating in a human without offering immediate rejection, as the university explained in an official statement. And it is that the 57-year-old patient, David Bennett, was not suitable for a human heart transplant. «It was either die or undergo this transplant. I want to live. I know it’s a shot in the dark but it’s my last option«He said a day before the surgical operation.
This Monday Bennett was breathing on his own, although he was still connected to a cardiopulmonary bypass pump to help his new heart. The next few weeks will be crucial, as doctors carefully monitor the performance of your new heart.
So while it is still too early to tell if the operation will actually work, it does represent a milestone in a multi-decade quest to one day transplant organs of animal origin to save human lives. The difference this time around is that the Maryland surgeons used the heart of a pig that underwent genomic editing to remove a sugar from your cells that is responsible for almost immediate organ rejection.
The modification was carried out by the biotech company Revivicor, which also supplied the pig used in an innovative kidney transplant in a brain-dead patient in New York in October. The donated organ remained in a machine to preserve it before surgery, and the team also used a new drug along with other conventional anti-rejection drugs to suppress the immune system and prevent it from rejecting the organ.
“If this works, there will be an inexhaustible supply of these organs for patients suffering”Said Dr. Muhammad Mohiuddin, Chief Scientific Officer of the xenotransplantation program of the University.
And is that currently there is a huge shortage of human organs donated for transplants, which has led scientists to try to figure out how to use animal organs instead, as well as to resort to other methods such as creating artificial organs.
Just over 3,800 heart transplant operations were performed in the United States last year, a record number, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS); while another 110,000 Americans are currently waiting for a heart transplant, and more than 6,000 patients die each year before receiving one.