A Maryland man who received a genetically modified pig heart is doing well and has no sign of rejection or infection about a month after the procedure, according to CNN, which was only the second surgery of its kind.
In September, 58-year-old Lawrence Faucette was suffering from terminal heart disease when he was admitted to the University of Maryland School of Medicine, where clinicians and faculty scientists performed the first ever pig heart transplant in history in 2022.
Faucette had preexisting conditions that excluded him from receiving a human heart and became eligible for the experimental surgery after the US Food and Drug Administration gave the green light for the groundbreaking procedure to go forward via its "compassionate use" initiative for unapproved drugs or procedures, according to university officials at the time of his surgery.
After his surgery, Faucette's new porcine ticker was performing well without assistance and he was able to breathe on his own, according to the university.
Surviving a month after his surgery is a milestone, but Faucette isn't out of the woods yet.
In the 2022 surgery, the recipient died two months after he received his pig heart transplant due to several factors, including a suspected complication involving medication that damaged the heart, but he did not have signs of organ rejection. He also had evidence of a pig virus that was hidden in the transplant organ, but scientists weren't sure if that was a contributing factor to his death.
As for Faucette, physicians are closely monitoring his progress and have weaned him off medication that was supporting his new heart at first, according to CNN. He is also undergoing physical therapy so he could walk again and regain his strength.
Whatever the outcome, the surgery and his ongoing success offer hope for the more than 100,000 Americans who are waiting for an organ transplant — and for the emerging science of xenotransplantation, in which humans receive organs, tissues or cells from other animals.
The pig heart came from the Virginia-based Revivicor, a biotech company that has been breeding genetically modified pigs to address the world's organ shortage. Scientists edited the genes of these special pigs so that the human body wouldn't reject their organs, tissues or cells.
Another issue with pig organs, though, is that they can carry latent parasites, bacteria, and viruses even though these pigs are bred in special facilities. For Faucette's surgery, scientists carefully screened his pig donor heart to make sure there wasn't anything malicious lurking inside the organ.
After his surgery, Faucette's wife Ann told university officials that the couple had "no expectations other than hoping for more time together. That could be as simple as sitting on the front porch and having coffee together."
At the end of the day, that's the point of medical experiments: giving people hope when there was once none.
More on pig organ transplants: Monkey Lives for Two Years With Gene-Hacked Pig Kidney
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