U.S. doctors experimented in the medical history by transplanting a pig heart into the human patient to save his life.
The doctors at Maryland Hospital say that the patient has been doing well for three days after the experimental surgery. The transplant showed that a genetically modified animal could function in the human body without immediate injection.
It is too early to know whether the operation will work as it marks a step in the decades-long quest to one-day use animal organs for life-saving transplants.
David Bennett’s son told the Associated Press that there was no guarantee whether the experiment would work as my father was dying and not eligible for a human heart transplant. There was no other option.
Before the surgery, David said, “It was either die or do this transplant. I know it is a shot in the dark, but it was my last choice. I want to live.”
According to the United Network for Organ sharing, there is a shortage of human organs for transplant, which made scientists use human organs. There were 3,800 heart transplants last year in the U.S., which oversees the nation’s transplant system.
Dr. Muhammad Mohiuddin, scientific director of the University’s animal to human transplant program, says, “If this works, there will be an endless supply of these organs for patients who are suffering.”
However, these types of transplantations or xenotransplantation had failed before because patients’ bodies rapidly rejected the animal organ. In 1984, Baby Fae, a dying infant, lived 21 days with a baboon heart.
The Food and Drug Administration, which oversees xenotransplantation experiments, allowed the surgery under “compassionate use” emergency authorization, available when a patient with a life-threatening condition has no other options.
In September, researchers in New York conducted an experiment that suggests that these types of pigs could be promising for animal-to-human transplantation. The doctors temporarily attached a pig kidney to a deceased human body and saw it start operating.