US surgeons carry out world’s second pig-to-human heart transplant

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Surgeons in the United States have carried out the world’s second transplant of a genetically modified pig’s heart to a human being.

According to a statement issued on Monday by the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM), the surgery was carried out on Lawrence Faucette, a 58-year-old patient who had terminal heart disease.

In 2022, the Maryland team had performed the world’s first transplant of a genetically modified pig’s heart into another dying man, David Bennett.

But the patient had died just two months after the procedure.

The current pig heart recipient was said to have been deemed ineligible for a traditional transplant with a human heart due to his pre-existing peripheral vascular disease and complications with internal bleeding.

This transplant of a pig’s heart was therefore the only option available.

The US Food and Drug Administration granted emergency approval for the surgery on September 15 through its single patient investigational new drug (IND) “compassionate use” pathway.

This approval process is used when an experimental medical product, is the only option available for a patient faced with a serious or life-threatening medical condition.

The pig heart, provided by Blacksburg, Virginia-based Revivicor, has 10 genetic modifications, knocking out some pig genes and adding some human ones to make it more acceptable to the human immune system.

According to the statement, Faucette is currently breathing on his own, and his heart is functioning well without any assistance from supportive devices.

“He is recovering and communicating with his loved ones. This is only the second time in the world that a genetically modified pig heart has been transplanted into a living patient,” the statement reads.

Bartley P. Griffith, who surgically transplanted the pig heart into both the first and second patient, said the doctors are grateful to Faucette for his bravery and willingness to help advance their knowledge of the field.

“We are hopeful that he will get home soon to enjoy more time with his wife and the rest of his loving family,” he said.