Scientific Milestone: First Successful Transplant of Pig Heart to a Living Human

An amazing milestone in scientific and medical history, a living human received the first successful transplant of pig heart – and he’s actually doing well after days of receiving the animal’s organ! If he truly survives, it could pave the way to other possible transplants in the future to solve the organ shortage crisis.

First Successful Transplant of Pig Heart to a Human

With millions of people getting sick each year, there’s a shortage of organs all over the world. Even in the US where many people are organ donors, there remains an organ shortage crisis.

Scientists have long been trying to find a solution to this problem, but 3D printing isn’t exactly going as fast as they would have wanted it to improve, and ethical issues have continually hounded the use of animal organs on humans.

After all, many people aren’t comfortable of the thought that an animal’s parts can help extend and save a person’s life.

Patient With No Other Choice

But researchers from the University of Maryland, USA, were able to successfully perform the transplant on a 57-year-old man with a terminal heart disease.

first successful transplant of pig heart
Photo credit: University of Maryland

The patient, David Bennett, has been bedridden and hospitalized for several months now. Bennett faced several problems:

  • His condition is terminal, meaning there’s nothing that doctors can do to heal his heart
  • He’s constantly connected to a heart-lung bypass machine to remain alive
  • He’s not qualified to be on the transplant list
  • He’s ineligible for an artificial heart pump because he has arrhythmia

While stuck in the hospital all those months, he felt that he was really just waiting for his life to come to an end.

So, when he was offered the chance for this breakthrough surgery, Bennett agreed to be these scientists’ first-ever human guinea pig.

He was fully informed of the procedure’s risks, especially because such a transplant has never been done on a living person before. The experimental procedure had lots of unknown risks and benefits.

Successful Animal to Human Transplant

After consenting to receive the transplant, Bennett was given the pig’s heart.

It didn’t come from an ordinary pig but had already been genetically modified to be as close to a human heart as possible.

first successful transplant of pig heart
Stock photo from Pixabay

This was a breakthrough surgery and brings us one step closer to solving the organ shortage crisis. There are simply not enough donor human hearts available to meet the long list of potential recipients,” explained Bartley P. Griffith, the doctor who surgically transplanted the pig heart to Bennett.

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.”

Surprisingly, Bennett’s body appears to have accepted the genetically-modified pig heart. Scientists are saying that it’s a positive sign that things might go well because there wasn’t any immediate rejection from the human body.

I look forward to getting out of bed after I recover,” Bennett said.

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