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Genetically Modified Pig’s Heart Is Transplanted Into a Second Patient

Surgeons in Baltimore have successfully transplanted a genetically altered pig heart into a man with terminal heart disease. The patient, Lawrence Faucette, had been rejected from all transplant programs that used human donor organs. This is the second such procedure performed by the surgeons, with the first patient dying two months after the transplant. However, the pig heart functioned well without signs of acute organ rejection. Mr. Faucette is reportedly recovering well and is communicating with his loved ones.

Dr. Bartley Griffith, the surgeon who operated on the first patient, performed the transplantation along with Dr. Muhammad Mohiuddin from the University of Maryland School of Medicine. However, concerns were raised after traces of a pig virus were found in the first patient’s heart. The pig used in Mr. Faucette’s transplant was repeatedly tested for the virus before the procedure using a new assay.

Xenotransplantation, the science of transplanting animal organs into humans, has made significant advancements in recent years. These advancements offer hope to the thousands of Americans who are in need of organ transplants but face a shortage of human donor organs. Kidney transplants from genetically modified pigs have already been successfully performed, demonstrating the potential of xenotransplants. The surgery performed on Mr. Faucette is considered a major step forward in the field.

The pig heart transplanted into Mr. Faucette underwent 10 genetic modifications to reduce the chances of rejection by the human immune system. The procedure was granted emergency approval by the FDA under a “compassionate use” process. Mr. Faucette is also receiving experimental antibody therapy to suppress his immune system and prevent rejection of the transplanted heart.

Despite the risks and uncertainties, Mr. Faucette remains hopeful for more time with his loved ones. His wife, Ann, expressed a simple desire to be able to spend time together, even if it’s just sitting on the front porch and having coffee.