Doctors have successfully transplanted a genetically modified pig heart into a human for the first time in history. The University of Maryland Medical Center announced that that transplant was successful and that the 57-year-old patient, David Bennet, was doing well three days later. Bennet had terminal heart disease and had been deemed ineligible for a human heart transplant due to his poor health. Although the surgery was a success, doctors are unsure about his health in the long term because the procedure had never been done before.

Zoom Out: If successful long-term, this development would be critical to saving lives. 17 people die in the United States every day while waiting for a transplant. Animal-to-human transplants, called xenotransplantation, have almost always failed due to the rejection of the organs. It could still happen in this case, but this time scientists used gene editing on the pig heart to eliminate a sugar believed to cause rapid organ rejection in humans and also inserted six human genes to make the human immune system more tolerable of the foreign tissue. Regenerative medicine company Revivicor, spun out of PPL Therapeutics (the first to clone a mammal, a.k.a. Dolly the Sheep), provided the modified heart after receiving FDA approval for its genetically modified engineered pigs in December 2020.

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. I look forward to getting out of bed after I recover. - Mr. Bennet, the patient, a day before the surgery was conducted.
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