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U.S. surgeons transplant pig heart to human patient

Surgical team members show the pig heart they transplanted into David Bennett last Friday. Associated Press/Photo by Mark Teske via University of Maryland School of Medicine

U.S. surgeons transplant pig heart to human patient

The 57-year-old Maryland handyman is recovering well and breathing on his own a few days after receiving a pig’s heart in an experimental transplant surgery, doctors at the University of Maryland School of Medicine said Monday. David Bennett, who had heart failure and an irregular heartbeat, was ineligible for a human heart transplant or a heart pump, so the U.S. Food and Drug Administration allowed the groundbreaking surgery on Friday under a “compassionate use” emergency authorization. It is the first time a pig heart has been successfully transplanted into a human.

Is he recovering well? Doctors said the next few weeks are critical as they monitor how Bennett’s new heart is faring. In one notable prior attempt of an animal-to-human heart transplant in 1983, a child known as Baby Fae lived for 21 days with a baboon heart. This time, scientists gene-edited the pig heart to remove a sugar in its cells that normally causes rapid organ rejection. Dr. Bartley Griffith, who performed Friday’s surgery, had previously transplanted pig hearts into about 50 baboons.

Dig deeper: Read Heather Frank’s report in Beginnings on ethical debates over animal-human transplants.

Onize Ohikere

Onize is WORLD’s Africa reporter and deputy global desk chief. She is a World Journalism Institute graduate and earned a journalism degree from Minnesota State University–Moorhead. Onize resides in Abuja, Nigeria.



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