BALTIMORE, Md. - In what’s being called a historic, monumental breakthrough, a Maryland man is recovering after receiving the first heart transplant from a genetically modified pig.
Before last Friday, 57-year-old David Bennett was dying. His heart was failing. He needed surgery and doctors told him a genetically modified pig heart was the only available option.
"It was either die or do this transplant. I want to live," Bennett told the University Maryland School of Medicine. "I know it’s a shot in the dark, but it’s my last choice."
Bennett’s situation was so dire, he needed the FDA to grant emergency authorization for the surgery. Once they did, Dr. Bartley Griffith, a surgeon at the University of Maryland School of Medicine performed the procedure.
Doctors are cautiously optimistic that the surgery was a success. Three days after the surgery, Bennett has responded well thus far.
"The donor animal was very stable, and the organ looks perfect," Dr. Griffith said.
Dr. Muhammed Mohiuddin oversees UMD’s program for transplants like these. He said that the department was "very excited to see this pig heart beating" in Bennett.
"This pig heart has, so far, performed very well. Even beyond our expectations," he said.
Dr. David Klassen, the chief medical officer for the United Network for Organ Sharing, claims the supply of organs never meets the demand. According to Klassen, decades of research went into this groundbreaking surgery, and there’s more work to be done before something like this is the norm.
"We are sort of opening some doors and address important issues, but the path to having this be, you know, a fully mature therapy that’s the standard of care for patients with organ failure. That’s still a long road ahead," Dr. Klassen said.
Bennett is still being closely monitored to ensure his body doesn’t reject this heart.