(CMR) A man from Maryland, in the United States, with terminal heart disease is recovering after a breakthrough surgery to implant a genetically modified pig heart three days ago.
The surgery at the University of Maryland Medical Center marks the first time a gene-edited pig has been used as an organ donor.
Dave Bennett, 57, agreed to be the first to risk the experimental surgery, hoping it would give him a shot at making it home to his Maryland duplex and his beloved dog, Lucky, USA Today reported.
“This is nothing short of a miracle. That’s what my dad needed, and that’s what I feel like he got,” his son David said.
Doctors replaced his heart with one from a 1-year-old, 240-pound pig gene-edited and bred specifically for this purpose in the nine-hour surgery. This is a significant breakthrough as scientists have been working for decades to figure out how to save human lives with organs from animals.
“This was a breakthrough surgery and brings us one step closer to solving the organ shortage crisis. There are simply not enough donor human hearts available to meet the long list of potential recipients,” Dr. Bartley Griffith, who surgically transplanted the pig heart into the patient, said in a statement.
“We are proceeding cautiously, but we are also optimistic that this first-in-the-world surgery will provide an important new option for patients in the future,” Griffith added.
Bennett is breathing on his own without a ventilator, though he remains on an ECMO machine that does about half the work of pumping blood throughout his body. Doctors plan to wean him off the machine slowly.
According to organdonor.gov, about 110,000 Americans are currently waiting for an organ transplant, and more than 6,000 patients die each year before getting one.
“This is a truly remarkable breakthrough,” said Robert Montgomery, a transplant surgeon at NYU Langone and a heart transplant patient himself. “I am thrilled by this news and the hope it gives to my family and other patients who will eventually be saved by this breakthrough.”