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Not Yet Clear Why

Why the man who received a gene-edited pig heart transplant died remains unclear, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The man, David Bennett, received the transplant in January but while he at first appeared to be doing well after surgery, Bennett died about two months later.

In the New England Journal of Medicine, University of Maryland School of Medicine's Muhammad Mohiuddin and his colleagues report that while Bennett died of heart failure, they are as yet unsure as to why. As the Wall Street Journal notes, they have a couple of ideas that they are investigating, such as whether antibodies they administered to treat infection attacked the heart or whether a temporary halt to immune-suppressing drug treatment led to rejection.

Another possibility is that a pig virus detected in the heart — porcine cytomegalovirus — that has been found in baboon transplants to lead to an inflammatory response may have had a role in the heart's failure.

Despite this, some researchers tell the WSJ that more clinical trials in humans are needed. "Mr. Bennett's life should accelerate the move to trials rather than his death slowing things down," Duke University School of Medicine's Allan Kirk tells it. "The question holding the field back was, can a pig organ provide life support for a human — and the answer is yes."

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