In an initial medical session, doctors transplanted a pig heart into a patient in a last-ditch attempt to save his life, and a Maryland hospital said Monday that he is three weeks healthy. days after the highly experimental surgery.
While it’s too early to tell if the surgery will actually work, it marks a step in a decades-long journey to one day using animal organs for life-saving transplants. . Doctors at the University of Maryland Medical Center say the transplant shows that a heart from a genetically modified animal can function in the human body without being immediately rejected.
Patient David Bennett, 57, knew there was no guarantee the experiment would work but he was dying, ineligible for a human heart transplant and had no other choice, his son told The Associated Press. .
“He dies or has this transplant. I want to live. I know it’s a shot in the dark, but it’s my last choice,” Bennett said the day before the surgery, according to a statement. published by the University of Maryland. of Medicine.
There is a huge shortage of donated human organs for transplant, leaving scientists trying to figure out how to use animal organs instead. Last year, there were just over 3,800 heart transplants in the US, a record number, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing, the organization that oversees the nation’s transplant system.
Dr Muhammad Mohiuddin, scientific director of the university’s animal-to-human transplant program, said: “If this is successful, there will be an inexhaustible supply of these organs for patients who are undergoing treatment. anguished.
But previous attempts at such transplants – or xenot transplants – have failed, largely because the patient’s body quickly discards the animal’s organs. Notably, in 1984, Baby Fae, a dying infant, lived 21 days with a baboon heart.
The difference this time: Surgeons in Maryland used a heart from a pig that had undergone gene editing to remove a sugar in its cells that causes rejection those super-fast organs.
“I think you could describe it as a watershed event,” said Dr. David Klassen, UNOS’s medical director, of the Maryland transplant.
However, Klassen cautions that this is only the first step to discovering whether this time, xenotransplant implants might work.
The Food and Drug Administration, which oversees xenotransplant transplant experiments, has authorized surgery under so-called “benevolent use” emergency authorizations, which are available when a patient is threatened. For life, there is no other choice.
Just last September, researchers in New York performed an experiment that showed these types of pigs could hold promise for animal-to-human transplantation. Doctors temporarily attached a pig kidney to the dead human’s body and watched it begin to work.
The Maryland transplant took their experiment to the next level, said Dr. Robert Montgomery, who led that trial at NYU Langone Health.
“This is a truly remarkable breakthrough,” he said in a statement. “As a heart transplant recipient with an inherited heart disorder myself, I am delighted at this news and hope it brings back my family and other patients who will ultimately be saved by this breakthrough.”
It will be important, said Karen Maschke, a research scholar at the Hastings Center who is helping develop ethical and policy recommendations for the first clinical trials to be funded by the Hastings Center. National Institutes of Health.
“It is not advisable to rush to transplant animals into humans without this information,” says Maschke.
Last Friday’s surgery lasted seven hours at a Baltimore hospital.
“He recognized the importance of what was done and he really recognized the importance of it,” David Bennett Jr said of his father. “He can’t live, or he can live a day, or he can live a few days. I mean, we’re in the unknown at this point.”