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Pig-heart transplant performed in US

“The FDA used our data and data on the experimental pig to authorise the transplant in an end-stage heart disease patient who had no other treatment options,” said Dr Muhammad Mohiuddin, who heads the University’s program on xenotransplantation – transplanting animal organs into humans.

About 110,000 Americans are currently waiting for an organ transplant, and more than 6000 patients die each year before getting one, according to organdonor.gov.

Members of the surgical team show the pig heart for transplant into patient David Bennett in Baltimore.

Members of the surgical team show the pig heart for transplant into patient David Bennett in Baltimore.Credit:AP

Bennett’s genetically modified pig heart was provided by Revivicor, a regenerative medicine company based in Blacksburg, Virginia. On the morning of the surgery, the transplant team removed the pig’s heart and placed it into a special device to preserve its function until the surgery.

Pigs have long been a tantalising source of potential transplants because their organs are so similar to humans. A hog heart at the time of slaughter, for example, is about the size of an adult human heart.

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Other organs from pigs being researched for transplantation into humans include kidneys, liver and lungs.

Prior efforts at pig-to-human transplants have failed because of genetic differences that caused organ rejection or viruses that posed an infection risk.

Scientists have tackled that problem by editing away potentially harmful genes.

In the heart implanted in Bennett, three genes previously linked with organ rejection were “knocked out” of the donor pig, and six human genes linked with immune acceptance were inserted into the pig genome.

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Researchers also deleted a pig gene to prevent excessive growth of the pig heart tissue.

The work was funded in part with a $US15.7 million research grant to evaluate Revivicor’s genetically-modified pig hearts in baboon studies.

In addition to the genetic changes to the pig heart, Bennett received an experimental anti-rejection drug made by Kiniksa Pharmaceuticals based in the US.

Reuters

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