Man who received genetically modified pig heart in groundbreaking surgery dies 2 months later
The man whose groundbreaking pig heart transplant seeded hopes for a resolution to the organ shortage has died after two months.
David Bennett was 57.
He died Tuesday at the University of Maryland Medical Center, where on Jan. 7 he had received a genetically modified pig heart.
Bennett lived for two months after the surgery, his doctors said in a statement from the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
“His condition began deteriorating several days ago,” the hospital said. “After it became clear that he would not recover, he was given compassionate palliative care. He was able to communicate with his family during his final hours.”
The doctors expressed gratitude for the insight Bennett had enabled them to gain, and his son, while bereft, said it had been worth it to try.
“We are grateful for every innovative moment, every crazy dream, every sleepless night that went into this historic effort,” David Bennett Jr. said in the hospital’s statement. “We hope this story can be the beginning of hope and not the end.”
Bennett had had congestive heart failure and faced certain death if he didn’t try the procedure. While animal organ transplant is not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the agency granted emergency authorization for the experimental surgery.
The fact that the heart kept functioning after the transplant for any length of time was informative and revelatory, since the body more often immediately rejects such an organ, doctors said in January.
The surgeons this time had used a genetically modified organ in which pig genes that trigger the hyper-fast rejection were removed, and human ones to help the body accept the organ were added.
The previous longest-term survivor of an animal heart transplant had been a patient known as Baby Fae, a California infant who lived for 21 days with a baboon’s heart in 1984.