The first person to receive a heart transplant from a pig did not die due to his body rejecting the organ, according to doctors at the University of Maryland. Instead, doctors said the heart failed for other reasons.
“We saw a thickening and later stiffening of the heart muscle leading to diastolic heart failure, which means the heart muscle was not able to relax and fill the heart with blood as it is supposed to," said Dr. Bartley Griffith, who is also the Clinical Director of the Cardiac Xenotransplantation Program at UMSOM.
Despite the new heart failing, doctors believe there were still positives in the scientific process.
“We are very encouraged by this finding, and it suggests that the genetically-modified pig heart and the experimental drug we used to prevent rejection worked effectively in tandem to demonstrate that xenotransplants can potentially save future lives,” said study co-leader Dr. Muhammad M. Mohiuddin,
David Bennett, 57, received the pig heart transplant because he was too sick to receive a human heart transplant.
Before his surgery in January, he said, “I want to live. I know it’s a shot in the dark, but it’s my last choice.”
Bennett’s surgery showed for the first time a gene-edited animal heart can function in the human body without immediate rejection.