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World-First Pig Heart Transplant into Human Patient

Pig Heart Transplant

A US man is the first to receive a genetically modified pig’s heart transplant.

Doctors say that David Bennett, 57, is recovering well three days after undergoing the seven-hour experimental procedure performed in Baltimore.

The procedure was thought to be the final chance to save Mr. Bennett’s existence, even though it’s not clear how likely his long-term prospects of survive.

“It was either die or do this transplant,” Mr. Bennett explained one day before the procedure.

“I know it’s a shot in the dark, but it’s my last choice,” he declared.

The University of Maryland Medical Center doctors received special permission from the US medical regulatory body to perform the procedure because Mr. Bennett is suffering from severe heart disease and could have otherwise died.

What Pig’s Heart Is Transplanted into Human?

The patient was not eligible to receive a human transplant, typically taken by medical professionals when a patient is in very bad health.

According to the AFP news agency, the pig used for the transplant was genetically altered to eliminate certain genes that could have resulted in the rejection of the organ by Bennett’s body.

The medical team that conducted the transplant is the culmination of many years of research that could alter lives worldwide.

How Many Can People Die Due to Shortage of Organ?

Surgeon Bartley Griffith has said that the operation would take all of humanity “one step closer to solving the organ shortage crisis”. At present, 17 people die each day across the US waiting for a new organ, and more than 100,000 people are waiting to be added to the waitlist.

Dr. Christine Lau, chair of the Department of Surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, was in the operating theater during the operation.

“He’s at more of a risk because we require more immunosuppression, slightly different than we would normally do in a human-to-human transplant. How well the patient does from now is, you know, it’s never been done before so we really don’t know,” she explained to the BBC.

“People are constantly on waiting lists needing organs. If we could create the genetically engineered organs of pigs, they wouldn’t have to wait. Instead, they could simply get an organ when they required it.

“Plus, we wouldn’t have to fly all over the country at night-time to recover organs to put them into recipients,” she added.

The possibility of utilizing animals’ organs to provide xenotransplantation to meet the growing demand for organs has been long thought of, and the use of the heart valves of pigs is widespread.

In October 2021, surgeons located in New York announced that they had succeeded in transplanting a pig’s kidney to the body of a human. The procedure was the most sophisticated research conducted in the field thus far.

The recipient, in this instance, was dead in the brain with no chance of recovering.

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According to US researchers, the most genetically modified animals currently in existence were developed to address the shortage of organs available to be transplanted.

Scientists successfully cleared 37 pigs from viruses that were hidden in their DNA. They also repelled one of the major obstacles for transplanting the organs of pigs into humans.

A team from eGenesis acknowledges that preventing organs from pigs that humans reject is an enormous problem.

Experts said it was an exciting and promising first step.

The study, which was published within the journal Science was based on skin cells of the skin of a pig.

Tests revealed 25 Pervs –  porcine retroviruses endogenous to the pig, encoded in the pig’s genetic code.

Experiments that mixed human and pig cells revealed that the viruses could get into human tissues and then infect them.

The researchers then applied the game-changing technology of gene editing CRISPR to eliminate all 25 pervs.

Human Embryos Modified to Stop the Spread of

Then, it used the same technology of cloning, employed to make Dolly Sheep, to insert the genetic material created by these cells into an egg of a pig and produce embryos.

The process is complex and inefficient, yet 37 healthy piglets were born.

“These are the first Perv-free pigs,” Dr. Luhan Yang, an investigator at Harvard University and the spinout company eGenesis, spoke to BBC News. BBC News website.

They also were “the most genetically modified [animals] in terms of the number of modifications”, He said.

If xenotransplantation, which involves using organs from different species, can be successful. It could reduce the long wait times for transplants.

Over 100,000 individuals require to undergo a heart transplant within the US. Around 6,500 patients are waiting on the UK waiting list.

Dr. Yang said on the BBC: “We recognize we are at the beginning stages of development and research.

“We know we have an audacious vision of a world with no shortage of organs, that is very challenging, but that is also our motivation to remove mountains.”

Pigs are a great candidate for xenotransplantation because their organs are similar in dimensions to humans. They are also bred in huge quantities.

However, removing the virus is just one aspect of the problem, and even organs that come from others can trigger an immune response. So that can result in that transplant getting rejected.

It is believed that the US team is studying further genetic modifications that will improve the acceptance of pig organs to the human immune system.

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The First Step

A genetics professor at the University of Kent, Darren Griffin, said: “This represents a significant step towards making xenotransplantation possible.

“However, there are so many variables, including ethical issues, to resolve before xenotransplantation can take place.”

Prof. Ian McConnell from the University of Cambridge said: “This work provides a promising start in the development of genetic strategies to making pig strains in which the possibility of transmission of retroviruses is removed.

“It remains to be seen whether these results can be translated into a fully safe strategy in organ transplantation.”

The researchers faced new challenges when they attempted to perform many gene editing procedures at once.

CRISPR technology is the combination of a satellite navigation system and scissors. The sat-nav locates the correct place in the genetic code, and then the scissors make the cutting.

The cutting of 25 slices across a pig’s genome led to DNA instability and the disappearance of the genetic data.

Source: BBC

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