U.S. doctors have transplanted a pig heart into a patient in a last-ditch effort to save his life — a first for medical science.
Doctors at the University of Maryland School of Medicine said Monday the patient is doing well three days after surgery.
The patient is 57-year-old David Bennett, a Maryland handyman too sick to get a human heart.
Bennett said before the surgery: “I want to live. I know it’s a shot in the dark, but it’s my last choice.”
Friday’s surgery showed for the first time that a gene-edited animal heart can function in the human body without immediate rejection.
According to USA TODAY, Bennett is breathing on his own without a ventilator. However, he reportedly is still on an ECMO machine that helps pump blood through his body. USA Today says doctors plan to slowly wean him off the machine.
"This was a breakthrough surgery and brings us one step closer to solving the organ shortage crisis. There are simply not enough donor human hearts available to meet the long list of potential recipients,” said Bartley P. Griffith, MD, who surgically transplanted the pig heart into Bennett.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, more than 100,000 Americans are currently waiting for an organ transplant, and more than 6,000 patients die each year before receiving a transplant.