Surgeons at the University of Maryland have transplanted a gene-edited pig heart into a human recipient, the Associated Press reports. It adds that the patient, David Bennett, is doing well three days after his surgery.
Previous xenotransplantation attempts have largely failed after recipients rejected the animal organs. But in this case, the heart came from a pig that had undergone gene editing to remove a sugar that is responsible for most animal organ rejections by human bodies, it says. The Baltimore Sun adds that another gene was knocked out to prevent the pig heart from continuing to grow after transplantation and that six other genes were inserted to promote the organ's acceptance.
"I think you can characterize it as a watershed event," David Klassen, chief medical officer of United Network for Organ Sharing, the nonprofit that oversees organ transplants in the US, tells the AP.
The AP notes the heart was provided by Revivicor, which previously provided a gene-edited pig kidney that was transplanted into a brain-dead human recipient without triggering that patient's immune system.
Bennett received the heart under a compassionate use emergency authorization from the Food and Drug Administration, as he was ineligible for a human heart transplant and had no other options, according to the AP. "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," Bennett said before his surgery, according to a university press release.