US Man Becomes Second Person in History to Receive a Pig-to-Human Heart Transplant

A man aged 58 became only the second individual worldwide to undergo a transplant involving a genetically altered pig heart, marking another significant event in the expanding realm of medical studies.

The practice of using animal organs for human transplantation, termed xenotransplantation, may address the persistent lack of available human organs for donation. Presently, over 100,000 individuals in the US are in line for organ transplantations.

The University of Maryland School of Medicine specialists performed both heart surgeries. The inaugural recipient passed away roughly eight weeks post-transplantation due to “several reasons including his deteriorated health” before the surgical procedure, as mentioned in the university’s recent press release.

This recent surgery occurred on Wednesday, and the patient, Lawrence Faucette, was disqualified from receiving a human heart transplant because of existing vascular issues and complications related to internal bleeding.

Had he not undergone this pioneering transplant, the father of two and former Navy serviceman would have been on the brink of imminent heart failure. Post-surgery, Faucette could breathe unaided, and the newly implanted heart was efficiently working “without the need for supplementary devices,” according to the institution.

He was administered typical anti-rejection medications and was also introduced to an innovative antibody treatment to deter his system from harming or discarding the fresh organ. The complexity with xenotransplants arises since the recipient’s immune defense tends to target the alien organ.

To sidestep this issue, researchers are utilizing organs sourced from genetically engineered pigs. In recent times, medical professionals have introduced kidneys from these altered pigs into patients declared brain-dead.

The Transplant Institute of NYU Langone Hospital, based in New York, shared the news earlier this month about a porcine kidney working in a brain-dead individual for an unprecedented duration of 61 days.

Initial research in xenotransplantation centered on sourcing organs from primates. In 1984, an infant dubbed “Baby Fae” received a baboon’s heart, though her life was extended by merely 20 days.

Nowadays, the emphasis has shifted towards pigs, considered optimal donors for humans due to organ compatibility, quick maturity, ample offspring, and their existing role in the food industry.