In a significant medical breakthrough, a patient with end-stage heart disease received a heart transplant from a genetically modified pig, marking a potential turning point in organ transplantation. A month post-surgery, doctors have confirmed that the heart is functioning autonomously, showing no indications of rejection.
The recipient, 58-year-old Lawrence Faucette, underwent this experimental surgery, becoming only the second individual to receive such a transplant. Due to Faucette’s heart disease and other pre-existing conditions, he was not a candidate for a conventional human heart transplant.
Dr. Bartley Griffith, the director of the Cardiac and Lung Transplant Program at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, who performed the surgery, expressed optimism about Faucette’s progress. He stated, “The physicians taking care of him believe his heart function is excellent. We’ve had no evidence of infections and no evidence of rejection right now.”
Dr. Muhammad Mohiuddin, director of UMMC’s Cardiac Xenotransplantation Program, further elaborated on the patient’s recovery, noting that all supporting drugs have been withdrawn, and Faucette’s heart is now fully self-reliant.
The focus has now shifted to Faucette’s physical rehabilitation. Videos released by UMMC show him engaging in physical therapy sessions, including cycling exercises to bolster his leg strength.
The heart used for the transplant came from a genetically modified pig from Revivcor, a subsidiary of the United Therapeutics Corporation. This pig underwent genetic modifications, including the deactivation of certain genes to prevent organ rejection and the addition of human genes to enhance compatibility.
While the procedure offers hope for the thousands awaiting organ transplants, it’s not without challenges. The first patient to undergo a similar transplant, David Bennett, passed away two months post-surgery. Although there were no immediate signs of organ rejection, an autopsy revealed multiple factors contributing to his death, including the presence of a previously unidentified pig virus.
Despite the challenges, such pioneering efforts in xenotransplantation could potentially address the dire shortage of donor organs, with over 113,000 individuals on the organ transplant waiting list in the U.S. alone.