David Bennett had terminal heart disease, and the pig heart was “the only currently available option,” according to the release. Bennett was deemed ineligible for a conventional heart transplant or an artificial heart pump after reviews of his medical records.
“It was either die or do this transplant. I want to live. I know it’s a shot in the dark, but it’s my last choice,” Bennett said before the surgery, according to the release.
The US Food and Drug Administration granted emergency authorization for the surgery on December 31.
Three genes that are responsible for rejection of pig organs
by human immune systems were removed from the donor pig, and one gene was taken out to prevent excessive pig heart tissue growth. Six human genes responsible for immune acceptance were inserted.
Bennett’s doctors will need to monitor him for days to weeks to see whether the transplant works to provide lifesaving benefits. He’ll be monitored for immune system problems or other complications.
“There are simply not enough donor human hearts available to meet the long list of potential recipients,” surgeon Dr. Bartley P. Griffith said in a statement. “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.”
Pig heart valves have been transplanted into humans for many years.
In October, surgeons successfully tested the transplant of a genetically modified pig kidney into a woman in New York who was brain-dead.