David Bennett, the 57 year old heart transplant recipient, was diagnosed with a terminal heart disease and had been bedridden for six weeks prior to the transplant. Approximately 17 people die every day in the US waiting for an organ transplant and 100,000 people are on the waiting list. With a shortage of organs available to those in need of transplants, having another solution is ever pressing. Another huge risk factor is considering various genes that the patient’s body may reject with a new organ, at which point my put them at further risk. Pig heart’s in particular are anatomically very similar to human hearts which is why they were heavily researched as an alternative option. Mr. Bennett would have died without this alternative option and is immunosuppressed, therefore the risks and considerations of using a pig heart were much higher. Therefore, the medical facility where he was operated on at the University of Maryland, were able to genetically modify a pig’s heart in such a way that bypassed the genetic risks that would have otherwise caused Mr. Bennet’s body to have rejected the heart. As this is the first transplant of its kind, there is much to learn and suspension that will grow as the outcome is being anticipated. As of October 2021, the heart transplant to Mr. Bennet was successful, marking the beginning of genetically modified animal organs and transplanting them into humans. This procedure will launch new research and experimentation as it will open doors for those desperately fighting for their lives, due to their lack of available human organs.
Photo by: Olga Guryanova