US surgeons successfully transplant genetically modified pig’s heart into patient – the first ever

An epic medical breakthrough.

A group of surgeons from the University of Maryland Medical Centre made medical history by transplanting a genetically modified pig’s heart into a 57-year-old man – a feat no one has done before.

The patient, David Bennet, underwent a seven-hour surgery on Friday (Jan 7) and is said to be responding well to the transplant.

Bennett, who suffers from a terminal disease, said that he knew of the risks of the procedure but had little to no options left, according to a statement provided by the University of Maryland Medical Centre a day before the surgery.

It was either die or do this transplant. I want to live. I know it’s a shot in the dark, but it’s my last choice.

If the surgery is to be regarded as a success, it could well pave the way for surgeons to use animal organs for future operations.

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Dr Bartley Griffith, who spearheaded the operation, expressed his optimism after carrying out the procedure.

“This was a breakthrough surgery and brings us one step closer to solving the organ shortage crisis. There are simply not enough donor human hearts available to meet the long list of potential recipients.

“We are proceeding cautiously, but we are also optimistic that this first-in-the-world surgery will provide an important new option for patients in the future,” he told Al Jazeera.

Pig organs have long been recognised as a feasible option in replacing human organs thanks to the many similarities these two share. Examples of potential transplant organs include the liver, kidneys, and lungs.

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However, there have been a few failed pig-to-human transplant due to genetic differences that lead to organ rejection and the risk viruses pose to such delicate procedures.

Cover images via Mirror and The Guardian

Editor: Sarah Yeoh