David Bennett, 57, had received the new organ in January.
David Bennett, 57, the first man to receive a genetically modified pig heart in a transplant, died on Tuesday (9). The surgery had been performed in January of this year at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore, United States.
“It was either die or have this transplant. I want to live. I know it’s a long shot, but it’s my last option,” Bennett declared the day before the operation. The patient spent the months prior to the procedure in bed and hooked up to a life support machine.
At the time, the US Food and Drug Administration ( FDA ), similar to Anvisa in Brazil, granted emergency authorization for the surgery on New Year’s Eve — the last chance for a patient who was not fit for a conventional transplant.
“This was a revolutionary surgery and brings us one step closer to solving the organ shortage crisis,” said Bartley Griffith, who transplanted the pig’s heart.
Hospital officials said they could not comment further on the cause of death because doctors had not yet performed a full examination. They plan to publish the results in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.
The donor pig belonged to a herd that underwent a genetic modification technique. The procedure sought to remove a gene that could trigger a strong immune response in a human being and thus cause the organ to be rejected.
The modification was carried out by biotech company Revivicor, which also supplied the pig used in a groundbreaking kidney transplant done on a brain-dead patient in New York in October 2021.
The donated organ remained in a preservation machine before surgery, and the team also used a new drug, an experimental compound, along with other conventional substances to suppress the immune system and prevent heart rejection.
Currently, pig heart valves are already widely used in humans, and pigskin is grafted to people who have suffered burns. They are ideal donor animals because of their size, fast growth, large litters, and the fact that they are readily available and bred for food.