Photo: University of Maryland School of Medicine via REUTERS

David Bennett: The first recipient of a human pig heart transplant has died.

On March 9, the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) in the United States stated that David Bennett had died, less than two months after becoming the first human to receive a genetically modified pig’s heart. “We are grieved by Mr Bennett’s death; he was a courageous and valiant patient who battled all the way to the end, and we express our heartfelt sympathies to the family,” said Bartley P. Griffith, who performed the operation.

Bennett died on March 8 after receiving a heart transplant on January 7. “His condition deteriorated several days ago, and when it became evident that he would not recover, he was provided compassionate palliative care, and he was able to interact with his family during his final hours,” the statement said.

Transplant is a first-of-its-kind

Bennett was hospitalised to UMMC in October in need of a heart transplant but was ruled unfit for a standard heart transplant. He was put on a heart-lung bypass machine to keep him alive. He had no other choice than to undergo the procedure. On December 31, the US Food and Drug Administration granted surgeons emergency permission to perform the pig-to-human heart transplant.

Because of advancements in gene-editing techniques, this first-of-its-kind procedure just recently became a viable possibility. Bennett’s heart had been genetically engineered to prevent rejection. Due to their closeness to human organs, experts have long considered pig organs as a viable source for transplantation, but organ rejection and greater viral infection risk meant that previous efforts had failed.

Doctors are still hopeful about pig-to-human transplants.

Bennett’s son referred to the treatment as a “miraculous

“His new heart worked “extremely well for several weeks without any symptoms of rejection,” he stated “On March 9, the hospital issued a statement. “Before consenting to accept the transplant, Mr Bennett was fully apprised of the surgery’s dangers, as well as the fact that the technique was experimental with uncertain risks and benefits,” according to the statement.

Despite the setback, doctors at UMMC said the experience had taught them a lot, and they “remain positive and plan on continuing our work in future clinical trials,” according to Muhammad Mohiuddin, director of the university’s heart xenotransplantation programme. “We’ve learned crucial lessons by discovering that the genetically modified pig heart can operate normally within the human body when the immune system is suitably controlled.”