The second patient to receive a genetically modified pig heart, 58-year-old Lawrence Fawcett, who had terminal heart disease, died on October 30th. According to the statement from the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore, where the transplant took place.
Fawcett received the transplant on Sept. 20 and survived six weeks, less time than the first recipient, despite special precautions taken by the Maryland team. Initially, Fawcett made progress after surgery. The university said he was attending physical therapy, spending time with his family and playing cards with his wife. However, in the days leading up to his death, his heart began to show signs of organ rejection. In other words, his immune system recognized the pig’s heart as a foreign object and attacked it. Rejection is also the biggest challenge with traditional transplants involving human organs.
At the University of Maryland Medical Center and elsewhere, researchers are investigating the possibility of transplanting animal organs into humans, known as xenotransplantation, as a way to alleviate the human organ shortage.inside America, more than 103,000 people are on the country’s transplant waiting list, and 17 people die every day waiting for an organ. Because donor organs are a scarce resource, doctors want to select recipients who are likely to survive and do well after transplantation.
Fawcett was in end-stage heart failure when he first arrived at the University of Maryland Medical Center on September 14th. Her heart stopped and she needed to be resuscitated, but it was determined that her symptoms were too severe to qualify for a traditional heart transplant. The next day, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted him emergency authorization to donate a genetically modified pig heart in hopes of prolonging his life. The university said Fawcett agreed to the procedure after being fully informed of the risks.
During Fawcett’s first month of recovery, the pig’s heart was functioning well with no early signs of rejection. Fawcett was also working to regain his ability to walk.
“We will conduct extensive analysis to identify factors that can be prevented in future transplants,” Muhammad Mohiuddin, who oversees the university’s xenotransplant program, said in a statement.
David Bennett, the first person to receive a genetically modified pig heart, survived for two months after undergoing the groundbreaking surgery in January 2022 before dying of sudden heart failure. The Maryland team concluded that Bennett’s poor health before the transplant and the swine virus found in the transplanted heart may have contributed to his death.