Dr Mansoor Mohiuddin, of Pakistan origin, performed a landmark surgery on an American man with terminal heart disease with his team from the University of Maryland. For the first time in the history of humankind, doctors transplanted a genetically modified pig’s heart successfully. According to the reports, the patient, David Bennet, was doing well after 3 days of the operation. The procedure demonstrated the feasibility of a pig-to-human heart transplant, which became possible with the new gene-editing tools.
Bennet stated that it was a do or die situation for him, and he wanted to live. He acknowledged that it was a “shot in the dark” but also his last option.
Pig’s Heart Transplant Can Cover Donor Organ Shortages
If the procedure proves successful in the long run, scientists have hoped that organs from pigs could help solve the organ shortage crisis. Surgeon Dr Bartley Griffith stated that there were not enough human donor hearts available to meet the demand. According to reports, more than 6,000 patients die every year due to no donor. Currently, 110,000 patients in the US are waiting for an organ transplant. Doctors were proceeding with extreme caution while performing this surgery but were also optimistic that if it works then, it will provide a critical opportunity for other patients.
The University obtained an emergency authorization from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before moving ahead with the experimental operation of transplanting pig’s heart. Dr Mohiuddin said that the FDA used their’s and the experimental pig’s data to authorize this surgery. Dr Mohiuddin leads the University’s xenotransplantation program, which involves transplanting animal organs into humans.
How They Made It Happen?
An American regenerative medicine company Revivicor provided Bennet’s genetically modified pig’s heart. The surgeons removed the heart and placed it in a particular device on the morning of the surgery. The device preserved the heart’s function till the operation started. Pigs are a significant source of potential transplants because their organs match humans’. Scientists have also been researching other pig organ transplants to humans, including liver, lungs, and kidneys. However, previous efforts have failed due to genetic differences that caused infection risk or organ rejection.
Thanks to cutting edge gene-editing tools, scientists removed 3 potentially harmful genes linked with organ rejection from the donor pig before implanting its heart in Bennet. They also deleted a gene that caused excessive growth in a pig’s heart tissue. Furthermore, they inserted 6 human genes linked with immune acceptance into the pig’s genome.
Scientists also used some anti-rejection drugs on Bennet to prevent the body from rejecting foreign organs. Most of them were conventional, but one was a novel drug made by Kiniksa Pharmaceuticals. According to reports, the procedure was partly funded through a baboon research grant of 15.7 million USD to evaluate genetically-modified pig hearts by Revivicor.