The science has taken a giant step at the beginning of the year 2022 , and it is that scientists and doctors from the University of Maryland (UMSOM) School of Medicine in Baltimore (United States) have managed to successfully perform the first transplant of a heart from pig to a human.
This is a surgery that will go down in history and could open a new path in the field of cardiovascular health. Specifically, the first transplant of a genetically modified pig heart has been successfully carried out in a man with end-stage heart disease, with no other option for survival as he was considered ineligible for traditional transplantation.
We are talking about the patient David Bennet, who is 57 years old and a resident of Maryland. After surgery with the transplant of a pig heart, he is stable and is currently being carefully monitored to observe in the coming days and weeks if this type of transplants can be a historic step to save lives.
First pig heart transplant to a human
The heart of the pig is the most similar to that of the human being. That is why, for years, science has been working on research that could allow the heart transplant of this type of animal into humans. In this beginning of 2022 it has become a reality.
After the successful intervention, the patient David Bennet confesses that his goal was to live. In this regard, before undergoing this complicated surgery, he explained that “it is either to die or to do this transplant. I want to live. I know it's a shot in the dark, but it's my last option.
It must be made clear that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized the performance of this historic surgery on the eve of the new year.
This option is the only alternative for a patient facing a serious or life-threatening medical condition. So far, it appears that the genetically modified pig's heart functions correctly in the body of patient David Bennett.
“There are not enough human hearts available”
In reference to this historic heart operation, Dr. Bartley P. Griffith, main author of the intervention, states that “this was a revolutionary surgery and brings us one step closer to solving the organ shortage crisis . There are simply not enough donor human hearts available to fill the long list of potential recipients.”
And it is that the success of this operation of a pig's heart transplanted to the body of a man could open a new path of hope that would help save millions of lives around the world.
Next, Dr. Griffith confesses that they are “proceeding with caution, but we are also optimistic that this first surgery in the world will provide a new and important option for patients in the future.”
Griffith has been accompanied by one of the world's leading experts in animal organ transplantation, Muhammad M. Mohiuddin, professor of surgery at UMSOM. Animal organ transplantation is known as xenotransplantation.
A success in the world of science
Professor Mohiuddin argues that “this is the culmination of years of very complicated research to perfect this technique in animals with survival times in excess of nine months. The FDA used our data and the data from the experimental pig to clear a heart transplant for a patient with end-stage heart disease who had no other treatment options.”
Despite the initial success of this first transplant of the heart from a pig into a man, it is necessary to keep in mind that this type of surgery could carry a unique set of risks .
Researchers point out that they can trigger a dangerous immune response. Thus, these responses can trigger an immediate rejection of the organ with a potentially fatal outcome for the patient in question.
In any case, the researchers are especially happy about this historic event and believe that it could be a definitive step to save thousands of lives in the near future.
Finally, it is necessary to clarify that the patient David Bennet gave his consent to perform this type of heart transplant. Likewise, he was informed in detail of all the risks involved in the procedure, including unknown benefits.
Bennet was admitted to the hospital six weeks before the intervention with a potentially moral arrhythmia and was connected to a cardiopulmonary bypass machine known as extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) that was keeping him alive.
The first pig heart transplant in a human has been a complete success. Now it is necessary to observe how the patient evolves, to determine the safety of this type of surgery.