First Ever Genetically-Modified Pig Heart Transplant


 On January 7th, 2022 in a Maryland hospital there was an eight-hour procedure that transplanted a pig heart into a man. History was made as this was recorded as the first time in US history where a pig heart had been transplanted and substituted as a human heart. A 57 year old patient by the name of David Bennett was the first to have the procedure done. A doctor performing the procedure going by the name of Dr. Bartley Griffith, decided to gamble on the experimental treatment because David Bennet would have died without a new heart. The reason doctors recommended gambling on the pig heart was because David had such a heart condition, and he did not qualify for a human heart transplant because of his medical record. Because of this doctors thought it was the perfect time to try something that had the best chance of David Bennet surviving. This is when the doctors in mid December announced to David this unusual procedure. They explained to Mr. Bennet everything they were going to be doing and how this was the best chance of survival. After completing the surgery successfully, a doctor stated, “ It was a huge success.” The patient, David Bennett, received a heart from a genetically modified pig. Before the procedure the doctors had carefully knocked out 4 genes for being recognized for harmful diseases, 3 genes being taken out for having produced antibodies that could cause rejection from the pig heart. Another 3 genes were then taken out which included 1 for being knocked out for controlling the growth of the pig and its organs, and the last two were knocked out to allow a better flow to and from the heart. Doctors modified the heart to prevent the heart from having any dangerous diseases that could later on translate to another heart disease which could potentially kill the patient.

 The substitution of a human heart for a pig heart works because both hearts have four valves which keeps the blood flowing in the right direction. Then there is an aorta which carries blood away from your heart and supplies it to the rest of your body. These pig parts are the exact structure that human hearts have which allows both human and pig hearts to run very similarly and almost work the same. Scientists have relentlessly been trying to expand the amount of animal organs they can use to hopefully substitute human organ transplants if they can not find a donor and are in a crisis. Scientists are trying to find large organs that are not rejected by humans, so they are able to conduct more surgeries like the one just did to David Bennet. Not too long ago a surgery was performed in which doctors used pig kidneys to replace a human kidney. This is another example of how some animals like pigs have similarities on the way their body is shaped. This could set the bar higher for transplants being less limited in the near future due to this groundbreaking discovery.