The first person to receive a heart transplant from a genetically engineered pig died two months after the surgery, according to the hospital that performed it.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, where Bennett underwent the transplant on Jan. 7 and had been healing since, it’s still unclear what caused his death. He began to deteriorate in recent days, and he died on Wednesday, according to the hospital.
Bennett was the first person to receive an animal organ that had been genetically engineered to prevent human rejection.
The surgery sparked hope that breakthroughs in cross-species organ donation will one day alleviate the chronic lack of human organs available for donation, and the team behind it said they are still enthusiastic about the operation’s future success.
According to hospital spokeswoman Deborah Kotz, there was no evident cause of death at the time of his death, and researchers intend to undertake a full investigation and publish the findings in a peer-reviewed publication.
“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,” said Dr. Bartley Griffith, the physician who oversaw Bennett’s transplant.
Despite the fact that the experimental surgery only added two months to Bennett’s life, it helped to advance the field of xenotransplantation, which aims to alleviate the human organ scarcity.
The director of the university’s cardiac xenotransplantation program, Muhammad Mohiuddin, said: “We have gained invaluable insights learning that the genetically modified pig heart can function well within the human body while the immune system is adequately suppressed.
“We remain optimistic and plan on continuing our work in future clinical trials.”
Experimental techniques that did not make a significant effect in the first few patients but later altered medicine can be found throughout medical history.
From the 1950s through the mid-1980s, organ transplantation was mostly experimental, but now around 40,000 transplants are performed annually in the United States.
The transplant sparked ethical concerns among animal rights advocates who think animals should not be sacrificed for human benefit, as well as some who objected to Bennett obtaining a life-extending treatment after serving time in jail for stabbing a man with a knife.
From October 2021 till the transplant operation, Bennett was bedridden and on a heart-lung bypass machine at the University of Maryland Medical Center.
He was ineligible for a human heart transplant since he had disobeyed previous medical recommendations.
Patients who do not follow doctors’ directions do not do well with organ transplants, according to studies, and only a small number of human hearts are available for transplant.
Bennett’s irregular heartbeat made him an unsuitable candidate for a mechanical heart pump.
When he realized he didn’t have any other options, he accepted to be the first person to receive a gene-edited pig heart as a bridge until he could prove himself worthy of a human heart.
For weeks, his replacement heart operated admirably, with no signs of rejection.
Bennett was receiving therapy after spending so much time in bed that he was able to sit up and watch the Super Bowl with his physical therapist, even singing along to a performance of “America the Beautiful.”
He frequently expressed his desire to return home to his dog Lucky to his caregivers.
Bennett’s son, David Bennett, Jr., spoke on behalf of the family and expressed gratitude to the hospital and doctors for their care.
In a statement, he added, “Their exhaustive efforts and energy, paired with my dad’s insatiable will to live, created a hopeful environment during an uphill climb.
”We were able to spend some precious weeks together while he recovered from the transplant surgery, weeks we would not have had without this miraculous effort.”
His son also expressed the hope that his father’s experience will one day enable many people live much longer with pig organ transplants.
“We hope this story can be the beginning of hope and not the end,” he stated.
“We pray that those looking for hope will continue to fight for the future, fight for new ideas, fight for answers, fight for life. Fight like Dave.”