A 57-year-old Maryland man who had received a genetically modified pig heart in a first-of-its-kind transplant surgery has died, the University of Maryland Medical Center said Wednesday.
David Bennett died on Tuesday after his condition began to deteriorate several days ago, the medical center said. He was given palliative care and was able to communicate with his family during his final hours, according to the news release.
“We are devastated by the loss of Mr. Bennett. He proved to be a brave and noble patient who fought all the way to the end. We extend our sincerest condolences to his family,” Dr. Bartley P. Griffith, the surgeon who transplanted the pig heart at the University of Maryland Medical Center, said in a statement. “Mr. Bennett became known by millions of people around the world for his courage and steadfast will to live.”
Bennett had terminal heart disease, and had received a transplant on January 7. Bennett was deemed ineligible for a conventional heart transplant or an artificial heart pump after reviews of his medical records, and the pig heart was the only available option, the medical center said at the time.
Revivicor, a regenerative medicine company based in Virginia, had provided the heart. Three genes that are responsible for rejection of pig organs by human immune systems were removed from the donor pig, and one gene was taken out to prevent excessive pig heart tissue growth. Six human genes responsible for immune acceptance were inserted.
The medical center said the transplanted heart performed well for several weeks without any sign of rejection.
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Bennett “was able to spend time with his family and participate in physical therapy to help regain strength. He watched the Super Bowl with his physical therapist and spoke often about wanting to get home to his dog Lucky,” the unviersity news release said.
Before the transplant, Bennett had said he knew it was “a shot in the dark.”
“It was either die or do this transplant. I want to live. I know it’s a shot in the dark, but it’s my last choice,” Bennett had said, according to a previous news release from the medical center.
The United States has a shortage of organs for transplants. More than 106,000 people are currently on the national transplant list, and 17 people die each day waiting for an organ, according to organdonor.gov.
Pig heart valves have been transplanted into humans for many years. In October, surgeons successfully tested the transplant of a genetically modified pig kidney into a woman in New York who was brain-dead.
More than 40,000 transplants – a record – were performed in 2021, according to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network.