The second individual to receive an experimental pig heart transplant dies about 6 weeks later
Only the second person in history to receive a heart transplant from a pig has died, his physicians in Maryland reported Tuesday.
Lawrence Faucette, 58, was dying from heart failure and was ineligible for a regular heart transplant when he received the genetically engineered pig heart on Sept. 20.
According to the University of Maryland School of Medicine, the heart was healthy for the first month but began displaying signs of rejection in recent days. Faucette died on Monday.
Ann Faucette, Faucette’s wife, said in a hospital statement that her husband had died. “knew his time with us was short and this was his last chance to do for others. He never imagined he would survive as long as he did.”
Last year, the Maryland team completed the world’s first heart transplant from a genetically engineered pig into another dying man. David Bennett lived for two months before his heart died of unknown causes, though indications of a pig virus were later discovered inside the organ. Lessons learned from the first experiment led to modifications, such as improved virus testing, before the second attempt.
“Mr. Faucette’s last wish was for us to make the most of what we have learned from our experience,”
Dr. Bartley Griffith, the transplant surgeon, said in a statement.
For decades, attempts at animal-to-human organ transplants, known as xenotransplants, have failed because people’s immune systems attacked the foreign tissue. Scientists are attempting again with genetically edited pigs to make their organs more human-like.
Faucette, a Navy veteran, and father of two from Frederick, Md., had been turned down for a standard heart transplant due to other health issues when he arrived at the Maryland hospital, feeling he had no other options and expressing a desire to spend more time with his family.
In mid-October, the hospital said that Faucette was able to stand and posted a video of him working hard in physical therapy to regain the strength needed to walk.
Dr. Muhammad Mohiuddin, director of cardiac xenotransplantation, stated that the team would investigate what happened with the heart while continuing to examine pig organs.
Many scientists believe that xenotransplants will one day be able to compensate for the severe lack of human organ donors. More than 100,000 people are on the national waiting list for a transplant, the majority of whom need kidneys, and thousands will die while they wait.
A few research teams have tested pig kidneys and hearts in monkeys and donated human bodies, hoping to learn enough to allow formal xenotransplant experiments to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration.