Patient Who Received World’s First Genetically Modified Pig Heart Dies

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University of Maryland School of Medicine

David Bennett, aged 57, unfortunately passed away on Tuesday the 8th of March at the University of Maryland Medical Center; he was the first person in the world to receive a genetically modified heart transplant from a pig, which was back in January. Two months have passed since the ground-breaking experiment and Maryland Hospital, who had performed the surgery, were sad to announce on Wednesday that the patient had died, although no exact cause of death was given except that his condition had begun deteriorating several days before his passing.

David Bennett’s son, David Bennett Jr., praised the hospital who had offered the experiment, as it would help put an effort into ending organ shortage. He said, “We are grateful for every innovative moment, every crazy dream, every sleepless night that went into this historic effort. We hope this story can be the beginning of hope and not the end.” – This statement was released by the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

University of Maryland School of Medicine

David Bennett was a handyman from Hagerstown, Maryland, who was a candidate for the attempt of using animal organs for a life-saving transplant. He was otherwise faced with “certain death” and was ineligible for human heart transplant. The surgery took place on the 7th of January 2022; it was reported later that the patient’s son told The Associated Press that his father knew there was no guarantee it would work. 

The historic surgery had been conducted by the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) faculty at the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC). The U.S. Food and Drug Administration had granted emergency authorisation for the surgery on New Year’s Eve through its expanded access provision, which is “used when an experimental medical product, in this case the genetically modified pig’s heart, is the only option available for a patient faced with a serious or life-threatening medical condition. The authorisation to proceed was granted in the hope of saving the patient’s life.”

This surgery may not have saved David Bennett’s life, but it lasted two months and therefore means there is a step forward in making improvements for the betterment of future surgeries. Science and technology is always evolving, so it may be only a matter of time before animal organs become fully successful in transplants to humans.