World’s second human recipient of genetically altered pig heart dies after showing signs of organ rejection
11/08/2023 // Olivia Cook // Views

Doctors at the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMC) have announced the death of 58-year-old Lawrence Faucette, the second person in the world to receive a heart transplant from a pig, just six weeks after the procedure.

Faucette from Frederick, Maryland, a father of two, who worked as a laboratory technician at the National Institutes of Health before retirement, was suffering from terminal heart disease and received a pig heart that was genetically altered to be compatible with humans on Sept. 20. He passed away on Oct. 30.

He was in end-stage heart failure when he came into the hospital on Sept. 14 and was "deemed ineligible" for a traditional heart transplant due to his advanced medical conditions, including peripheral vascular disease, according to Dr. Bartley P. Griffith, the surgeon who led the transplant team.

But on Sept. 15, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted an emergency authorization permit for Faucette to undergo the highly experimental surgery to extend his life with a genetically modified pig heart.

The surgery went off without a hitch, and Faucette was reported to have had a good recovery after the transplant. The pig heart seemed healthy and performed well in Faucette's body without any evidence of rejection in the first month following the transplant.

News outlets reported that Faucette was also happily recovering by spending time with his family, including playing cards with his wife, Ann. One video released by UMMC about two weeks before his death even showed Faucette in physical rehab, slowly pedaling a recumbent exercise bike with the help of a physical therapist.

By Oct. 20, Faucette no longer needed any external support to help his heart function and doctors were slowly weaning him off the drugs initially needed to support his heart. Faucette also consistently told doctors, nurses and other hospital staff how much he appreciated all the help they were providing for him. (Related: Japan to legalize "organ transplant farms" of animals to be raised and slaughtered for human transplant organs.)

Faucette's immune system rejected pig heart

Faucette started showing signs of rejection just days before his passing. Rejection happens when a patient's immune system recognizes that the transplanted organ or tissue is foreign and begins attacking it. Rejection is the biggest challenge patients who receive traditional transplants involving human organs face.

Cardiac xenotransplant chief Dr. Muhammad Mohiuddin of the UMMC said that he and his team will analyze what happened with the heart as they continue to study the effectiveness of using genetically modified pig organs as substitutes for people on transplant waitlists.

Scientists are putting all of their hopes on xenotransplants as a viable alternative for the huge shortage of human organ donations. More than 103,000 people are on lists for transplants in the United States, with most waiting for kidneys. Seventeen people die each day waiting for an organ.

The first person to receive a genetically engineered pig heart was David Bennett, who survived for two months after undergoing the groundbreaking procedure in January 2022. He died of sudden heart failure. The UMMC team concluded that Bennett's poor health before the transplant and a pig virus found hidden deep within the transplant heart may have contributed to his death.

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Watch the following video about Updates provided by the University of Maryland doctors after a second successful pig heart transplant.

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More related stories:

Scientists pressuring FDA to approve use of bioengineered animal organs in human transplants.

Chimera: Scientists have grown a pig-human hybrid creature in a lab.

Animal organ HARVESTING farms coming soon? Researchers develop method to "refurbish" to mass produce organs for disease-ridden humans?

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