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Patient with genetically modified pig heart dies after transplant

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Patient with genetically modified pig heart dies after transplant

A 58-year-old man diagnosed with terminal heart disease, Lawrence Faucette, who had received the world’s second genetically-modified pig heart transplant, tragically passed away approximately six weeks after the procedure.

The University of Maryland Medical Center, responsible for this pioneering surgery, confirmed the news.

Lawrence Faucette received the genetically-modified pig heart on September 20, and he succumbed to his condition on October 30.

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This groundbreaking procedure became a necessity for Faucette, as he was considered ineligible for a human heart transplant due to his advanced medical conditions, including peripheral vascular disease. Although the transplant initially exhibited promise, it began to show signs of rejection in recent days.

Dr. Bartley P. Griffith, the surgeon who performed the transplant, expressed his condolences, saying, “We mourn the loss of Mr. Faucette, a remarkable patient, scientist, Navy veteran, and family man who just wanted a little more time to spend with his loving wife, sons, and family.”

This experimental procedure is part of a growing field of research focused on advancing cross-species transplants, known as xenotransplants, involving animal organs genetically modified to reduce the risk of rejection in humans. The goal is to eventually bridge the human donor gap, which currently affects over 100,000 people in America awaiting organ transplants.

It’s worth noting that David Bennett Sr. was the first person to receive a gene-edited pig heart transplant in January 2022, conducted by the same medical team. Sadly, he passed away after two months, with the medical center attributing his death to “a multitude of factors, including his poor state of health” prior to the operation. Subsequently, it was discovered that the organ was infected with a virus.

Muhammad Mohiuddin, the director of the cardiac xenotransplantation program, commended Lawrence Faucette’s contribution to science and expressed the intent to conduct a comprehensive analysis to identify preventable factors in future transplants.

In recent years, medical professionals have also successfully transplanted kidneys from genetically modified pigs into brain-dead patients. The NYU Langone Hospital Transplant Institute in New York announced in September that a pig kidney transplanted into a brain-dead patient functioned for a record-breaking 61 days.

While early xenotransplantation research involved harvesting organs from primates, such as the famous case of “Baby Fae” receiving a baboon heart transplant in 1984 (surviving only 20 days), current efforts have shifted to pigs. Pigs are considered ideal organ donors for humans due to their organ size, rapid growth, large litters, and their existing use as a food source. This progress represents a promising avenue for addressing organ transplantation challenges.

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