In a first of its kind, genetically-modified pig heart transplanted in human

As one of its kind of medical marvel, a 57-year man, David Bennet in Maryland, USA, who was suffering from end-stage heart disease (terminal) with no chance of survival, received a genetically modified porcine (pig) heart in University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) faculty Medical Center under the supervision of a a surgical team led by renowned surgeon Professor Bartley Griffith.

Prof Bartley MD, quoted “This was a breakthrough surgery and brings us one step closer to solving the organ shortage crisis. There are simply not enough donor hearts available to meet the long list of potential recipients.” The U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted an emergency authorisation on compassionate use provision as a last resort to address the ethical and legal issues as an experimental medical product in the hope of saving the patient’s life.

The process is commonly known as Xenotransplantation where animal organs are transplanted in humans after suitable genetic modification. The growing shortage of available organs such as heart, lungs and kidneys proving a major hurdle in transplanting patient who wait for years for a suitable match.

After complicated research and years of hard work in genetics with advance of technology it is becoming a possibility to modify number of genes in piglets (called transgenic pigs) to make them suitable for transplantation without rejection by the immune system in the host (Patient receiving the transplant).

This unprecedented surgery and its success heralds a transformational change in medical science for humanity to conquer the final frontiers of organ transplantation.

Dr Debakanta Behera, MD from Gajapati Nagar, Bhubaneswar is a Senior Psychiatrist in UK and can be reached by [email protected]

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