Surgeons transplant gene-tweaked pig heart into second patient.

Surgeons transplant gene-tweaked pig heart into second patient.

A New Hope: Second Human Patient Receives Genetically Altered Pig Heart

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In a groundbreaking medical procedure, a second human patient has recently received a genetically altered pig heart to combat end-stage heart disease. This pioneering surgery took place at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore, performed by the same team that successfully completed the first pig heart transplant earlier this year. Offering hope to patients in dire need of a transplant, this procedure could revolutionize the field of cardiac transplantation.

The recipient of this remarkable surgery, 58-year-old Lawrence Faucette, had been deemed ineligible for a human heart transplant due to preexisting peripheral vascular disease and complications with internal bleeding. Facing limited options, Faucette willingly opted for the xenotransplantation, entrusting his life to the skilled hands of Dr. Bartley Griffith and Dr. Muhammad Mohiuddin, and their dedicated team. In a heartfelt statement, Dr. Griffith expressed his gratitude for Faucette’s bravery and the opportunity to extend his life.

This procedure marks a significant step forward, providing valuable data for future lifesaving surgeries. Dr. Mohiuddin, who established the Cardiac Xenotransplantation Program seven years ago, acknowledges the importance of this case in progressing towards clinical trials, as requested by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

To accomplish this groundbreaking surgery, the team utilized a pig heart provided by United Therapeutics Corp.’s xenotransplantation subsidiary, Revivicor. The pig organ underwent ten gene edits, including the knockout of three genes known to cause rejection of pig organs in humans. Additionally, six human genes responsible for immune acceptance were inserted into the pig’s genome to ensure compatibility and reduce the risk of rejection.

Following the transplant, Faucette is currently breathing without assistance, and his new heart is functioning well. As a 20-year Navy veteran and former lab technician at the National Institutes of Health, Faucette’s life has been given a new lease, avoiding the inevitable heart failure that would have occurred without this groundbreaking surgery.

One cannot overlook the potential risks associated with xenotransplantation, such as the transmission of diseases from animals to humans and the possibility of triggering dangerous immune responses. However, Faucette underwent thorough psychiatric evaluation and consented to the surgery’s potential risks, acknowledging the hope it offers him and his loved ones.

To support the success of the transplant and prevent rejection, Faucette is also undergoing treatment with conventional anti-rejection drugs. Additionally, he is participating in the experimental use of tegoprubart, a novel antibody therapy that blocks CD154, a protein involved in immune system activation.

Faucette’s case shines a light on the urgent need for organ transplants in the United States, with over 110,000 individuals currently awaiting a life-saving procedure. Tragically, more than 6,000 people die each year while on the transplant list, according to organdonor.gov.

Although the transplantation of pig organs into humans still faces numerous challenges, this second successful pig heart transplant showcases the dedication and progress made by medical professionals in the field of xenotransplantation. With each procedure, new knowledge is gained and the potential for saving lives grows.

As the medical community continues to pursue this innovative approach, further research and pre-clinical trials will be essential. This groundbreaking surgery is an important step toward a future where xenotransplantation could offer hope to countless patients in need of organ transplants. The tireless efforts of the medical teams and the bravery of patients like Faucette inspire optimism and fuel the pursuit of groundbreaking medical advancements.

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