A medical milestone involving an animal’s genetically modified organ sheds a hopeful light to the long bookkeeping of patients awaiting organ transplants.
An ambitious team of doctors last week transplanted a genetically modified pig heart into a human patient for the first time, marking a historic moment for medicine. As of Monday, three days after the surgery, the 57-year-old organ recipient, David Bennett, was reportedly still doing well.
While the team will be monitoring Bennett closely over the coming weeks to ensure long-term benefits from the procedure, his medical milestone undoubtedly lays the groundwork for a new generation of animal-to-human organ transplantation, called xenotransplantation. , and directly addresses the organ shortage crisis.
“There are not enough donor human hearts available to complete the long list of potential recipients,” physician Bartley P. Griffith of the Maryland School of Medicine said in a statement. He is also a professor of transplant surgery in the medical school.
“We are proceeding with caution,” Griffith said, “but we are also optimistic that this first surgery in the world will provide an important new option for patients in the future.” According to organdonor.gov, more than 100,000 Americans are awaiting organ transplants and more than 17 patients die each day before topping the waiting list.
Leading up to his surgery, Bennett’s story unfortunately echoes that of the many, many patients awaiting transplants. He was hospitalized and bedridden due to terminal heart disease.
According to a statement provided by the university, the day before the surgery, Bennett said, “It was either dead, or it transplanted. I want to live. I know it’s a shot in the dark, but it’s mine.” Last choice.” of Maryland School of Medicine. Several major transplant centers previously deemed Bennett ineligible for a conventional heart transplant, including UMSOM, where the groundbreaking surgery was performed.
“I look forward to getting out of bed after I recover,” Bennett said.
To conduct the life-saving operation as a last resort, doctors genetically modified a pig’s heart to make it more likely to accept Bennett’s body as its own circulatory control center. Without such modifications, non-human-to-human organ transplantation carries risks such as triggering severe, and sometimes fatal, immune responses.
To further guard against the possibility of physical rejection, the physicians behind the surgery’s blueprint also prescribed certain drugs that suppress the immune system, which the UMSOM report says helped Bennett’s body adjust to the foreign organ. .
Mohiuddin, professor of surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, who established the heart, “It is the culmination of highly complex research to improve this technique in animals, with survival times exceeding nine months.” ” Xenotransplantation Program with Griffith said in a statement. “The FDA used our data and data on the experimental pig to authorize transplantation into an end-stage heart disease patient who had no other treatment options.”