The second individual to receive a transplanted heart from a pig has passed away, nearly six weeks post the highly experimental surgery, as announced by his Maryland doctors on Tuesday.
Lawrence Faucette, 58, was in terminal heart failure and ineligible for a traditional heart transplant when he received the genetically modified pig heart on September 20.
According to the University of Maryland School of Medicine, the heart appeared healthy for the first month but started showing signs of rejection in recent days. Faucette died on Monday.
Second patient dies after pig heart transplant
In a statement released by the hospital, Faucette’s wife, Ann, said her husband “knew his time with us was short and this was his last chance to do for others. He never imagined he would survive as long as he did.”
Last year, the Maryland team conducted the world’s first transplant of a heart from a genetically altered pig into another dying man. David Bennett survived two months before that heart failed, for reasons that aren’t completely clear although signs of a pig virus later were found inside the organ. Lessons from the first experiment led to changes, including better virus testing, before the second attempt.
Dr. Bartley Griffith, who led the transplant at the University of Maryland Medical Center, mentioned, “Mr. Faucette’s last wish was for us to make the most of what we have learned from our experience.”
Attempts at animal-to-human organ transplants, known as xenotransplants, have failed for decades as people’s immune systems immediately destroyed the foreign tissue. Now, scientists are trying again using pigs genetically modified to make their organs more humanlike.
Faucette, a Navy veteran and father of two from Frederick, Maryland, had been turned down for a traditional heart transplant due to other health issues when he arrived at the Maryland hospital, out of options and wishing to spend a little more time with his family.
In mid-October, the hospital reported that Faucette had been able to stand and released a video showing him working hard in physical therapy to regain the strength needed to attempt walking.
Cardiac xenotransplant chief Dr. Muhammad Mohiuddin stated that the team will analyze what happened with the heart as they continue studying pig organs.
Many scientists hope xenotransplants one day could compensate for the huge shortage of human organ donations. Over 100,000 people are on the nation’s list for a transplant, most awaiting kidneys, and thousands will die waiting.
A handful of scientific teams have tested pig kidneys and hearts in monkeys and in donated human bodies, hoping to learn enough for the Food and Drug Administration to allow formal xenotransplant studies.
With information from CBS News