Recipient of Pig Heart Transplant Dies After Two Months

A man who received the first heart transplant from a pig two months ago has died, the University of Maryland Medical Center said Wednesday. 

Doctors did not say the specific reason David Bennett, 57, died Tuesday, only saying his condition had been worsening over the past several days. 

“We are grateful for every innovative moment, every crazy dream, every sleepless night that went into this historic effort,” Bennett’s son, David Bennett Jr., said in a statement released by the University of Maryland School of Medicine. “We hope this story can be the beginning of hope and not the end.” 

Prior to the January 7 transplant, Bennett had been in poor health and was ineligible for a human heart. 

Organ transplants from animals — xenotransplantation — have largely failed because the human body rejects them almost immediately, but in this case, the pig had been genetically modified with human genes in the hope of delaying rejection.  

At first, things seemed to be going well for Bennett, and last month, the hospital released a video of him watching the Super Bowl from his hospital bed. 

“We are devastated by the loss of Mr. Bennett. He proved to be a brave and noble patient who fought all the way to the end,” Dr. Bartley Griffith, who performed the surgery at the Baltimore hospital, said in a statement. 

Bennett lived longer than one notable case in 1984 when a baboon heart was transplanted to a baby. The baby lived 21 days. 

“We have gained invaluable insights learning that the genetically modified pig heart can function well within the human body while the immune system is adequately suppressed,” said Dr. Muhammad M. Mohiuddin, professor of surgery and scientific director of the Cardiac Xenotransplantation Program at University of Maryland School of Medicine. “We remain optimistic and plan on continuing our work in future clinical trials.”

More than 106,000 people are on the organ donation waiting list in the United States. Last year, more than 41,000 transplants were performed, and of those, 3,800 were heart transplants. 

Some information in this report comes from The Associated Press. 

 

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