The first human to receive a heart transplant from a genetically-modified pig, David Bennett (57), has died two months after the surgery.

The pig heart functioned normally for several weeks, and the University of Maryland Medical Center provided regular updates suggesting that Bennet was improving. Bennett’s body did not immediately reject the organ, and he was able to participate in physical therapy and spend time with his family, despite never being discharged from the hospital.

Unfortunately, his condition deteriorated earlier this month, and he died on March 8. His doctors haven’t identified an apparent cause of death for now but plan to carry out a full evaluation before publishing their findings in a peer-reviewed journal.

Zoom Out: Despite Bennett’s death, surgeons have called the procedure the “first step into uncharted territory” and an “incredible feat.” The “xenotransplantation” of animal organs can potentially save thousands of lives each year. Over 100,000 Americans remain on organ waiting lists, and 17 people die every day in the United States while waiting for a transplant.

Bennett survived longer than any other xenotransplantation patient in the past. In 1984, doctors transplanted a baboon heart into Stephanie Fae Beauclair, an infant born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome. She survived for 21 days before her body eventually rejected her adopted baboon heart.

Doctors said they were “devastated” by Bennett’s death but called him “a brave and noble patient who fought all the way to the end.”

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