The first person to receive a heart transplant from an animal has died two months after the groundbreaking surgery, the University of Maryland Medical Center announced Wednesday.
David Bennett, 57, died Tuesday, the institution said. Doctors did not give an exact cause of death, saying only that his condition it had started to deteriorate several days earlier.
Bennett’s son praised the hospital for offering the experiment at the last minute and said the family hoped it would help in additional efforts to end the organ shortage.
“We are grateful for every groundbreaking moment, every crazy dream, every sleepless night that went into this historic effort,” David Bennett Jr. said in a statement issued by the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
“We hope that this story can be the beginning of hope and not the end,” stressed.
For decades, physicians have sought to one day use animal organs for life-saving transplants. Bennett was a candidate for this type of surgery only because, otherwise, he faced certain death: he was not eligible for a human heart transplant, he was bedridden and on life support, and had no other options.
After the operation on January 7 last, Bennett’s son told Associated Press that his father knew there was no guarantee the operation would work.
Previous attempts to xenotransplantation they have largely failed because the patients’ bodies quickly rejected the animal organ.
This time, the Maryland surgeons used a genetically modified pig’s heart: The scientists removed the pig genes that trigger rejection and added human genes to help the body accept the organ.