Breaking: In a medical first, US surgeons successfully transplant a pig heart into a human body

The surgery at the  University of Maryland School of Medicine 

 In a medical first, physicians transplanted a pig heart into a patient in a last-ditch bid to save his life, and a Maryland hospital said Monday that he is doing well three days later.

While it is too early to tell if the procedure will be successful, it is a significant step forward in the decades-long goal to one day employ animal organs for life-saving transplants. The transplant, according to doctors at the University of Maryland Medical Center, demonstrated that a heart from a genetically modified animal may operate in the human body without rapid rejection.

David Bennett, 57, was aware that there was no certainty the experiment would succeed, but he was dying, ineligible for a human heart transplant, and had no other choice, according to his son.

"It was either death or this transplant." I'd like to live. "I realize it's a gamble, but it's my last resort," Bennett stated a day before the operation, according to a statement released by the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

Because there is a severe scarcity of donated human organs for transplant, scientists are attempting to figure out how to utilize animal organs instead. According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, which supervises the nation's transplant system, there were slightly over 3,800 heart transplants in the United States last year, a record amount.

"If this succeeds," said Dr. Muhammad Mohiuddin, scientific head of the university's animal-to-human transplant program, "there would be an unlimited supply of these organs for people who are suffering."

However, previous attempts at similar transplants, known as xenotransplantation, have failed, owing to humans' bodies' fast rejection of the animal organ. Notably, Baby Fae, a dying child, survived for 21 days with a baboon heart in 1984.

The difference this time was that the Maryland surgeons utilized a heart from a pig that had been gene-edited to eliminate a sugar in its cells that is responsible for the quick organ rejection.

The FDA, which regulates xenotransplantation research, approved the procedure under a "compassionate use" emergency permit, which is available when a patient with a life-threatening disease has no other choices.

 However, according to Karen Maschke, a research scholar at the Hastings Center who is assisting in the development of ethics and policy recommendations for the first clinical trials funded by the National Institutes of Health, it will be critical to share the data gathered from this transplant before opening the option to more patients.

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