A man who received a genetically modified pig’s heart died on Tuesday, two months after his operation the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC), has confirmed.
David Bennet, 57, suffered from terminal heart disease. According to a UMMC statement, he received the transplant on January 7. He lived for two months after the surgery.
His condition began to deteriorate several days ago. Determining that he would not recover, doctors gave him palliative care.
During his last moments, UMMC said Bennet could communicate with his family.
“We are devastated by the loss of Mr. Bennett. He proved to be a brave and noble patient who fought all the way to the end. We extend our sincerest condolences to his family,” Dr. Bartley Griffith, the surgeon who performed the transplant procedure at UMMC, said in the statement.
“Mr. Bennett became known by millions of people around the world for his courage and steadfast will to live,” he said.
Because they are so similar physiologically to our own, Some scientists have long been interested in using genetically-modified pig organs for human transplants.
Due to genetic differences that caused the organs to be rejected, previous efforts have not worked.
Animal rights groups such as PETA have criticized the practice. PETA described the procedures as “unethical, dangerous, and a tremendous waste of resources.”
According to Newsweek, transplanting organs from one species to another is called xenotransplantation. Surgeons in New York announced last year that they had successfully transplanted a pig’s kidney into a person. The patient who suffered from kidney disease was brain-dead on a ventilator and was not expected to recover.
To stay alive, in October 2021, Bennet was admitted to UMMC, where he was placed on an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) machine.
In cases where the heart and lungs cannot do so adequately, An ECMO is a life support device that pumps and oxygenates a patient’s blood outside the body.
Bennet was not eligible for a conventional heart transplant, and he was offered the experimental pig heart transplant instead, doctors determined. Bennet was informed that the procedure came with unknown risks and benefits.
At the time, the 57-year-old himself admitted that the procedure was a “shot in the dark.” Acknowledging that without the intervention, he would die. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted authorization for emergency use of the procedure on December 31 of that year.
For several weeks the genetically-modified, transplanted heart functioned “very well” without any sign of rejection. However, in recent days his condition deteriorated until Bennett passed away.
Dr. Muhammad Mohiuddin, a professor of surgery and scientific director of the Cardiac Xenotransplantation Program at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, said: “We are grateful to Mr. Bennett for his unique and historic role in helping to contribute to a vast array of knowledge to the field of xenotransplantation.”
“We have gained invaluable insights learning that the genetically modified pig heart can function well within the human body while the immune system is adequately suppressed,” Dr. Mohiuddin said. “We remain optimistic and plan on continuing our work in future clinical trials.”
According to Dr. Griffith, the world-first transplant led to “valuable insights” that will hopefully provide “lifesaving benefits for future patients.”
According to the Associated Press, David Bennett Jr., The man’s son, hoped his father’s operation would be the “beginning of hope and not the end,” he said.
“We are grateful for every innovative moment, every crazy dream, every sleepless night that went into this historic effort,” he said.