A 58-year-old patient this week became the second person in the world to have a genetically modified pig heart transplanted, a new illustration of a field of research that has been very active in recent years.
Such an operation was carried out for the first time in 2022 at the same institution, the University of Maryland School of Medicine in the United States.
The then patient, David Bennett, died about two months after the procedure, "due to a multitude of factors, including his poor health" before the transplant, the university wrote in a statement Friday.
Such transplants of animal organs into humans, called xenotransplants, could offer a solution to the chronic shortage of organ donation. More than 100,000 Americans are currently on a waiting list for a transplant.
The new operation took place on 20 September. Lawrence Faucette, a retired military man, was suffering from a serious heart disease that almost certainly doomed him. He was declared ineligible to receive a human heart transplant, so that solution represented "the only option" for him, according to the statement.
At least now I have hope and I have a chance," he said before the intervention, according to the same source.
We have no expectations other than to spend more time together," his wife said. "It can be as simple as sitting on the porch in front of the house and having our coffee together.»
Lawrence Faucette is currently breathing alone, and his new heart is working well, without assistance, doctors said.
He takes immunosuppressive treatments, as well as "a new antibody therapy," in order to avoid rejection.
Xenografts are a challenge because the recipient's immune system tends to attack the foreign organ. This is why pigs are genetically modified, to also reduce this risk.
Recently, kidney transplants from genetically modified pigs have also been performed on brain-dead patients.
The Transplant Institute at NYU Langone Hospital in New York announced this month that it had successfully operated a pig kidney on a deceased for a record two months.