Man gets heart transplant from genetically modified pig

In a world first a terminally ill man in the U.S. has received a heart transplant - from a genetically modified pig.

Doctors say 57-year-old David Bennett of Maryland is doing well, three days after the experimental procedure.

The surgery took seven hours and was performed by a team at the University of Maryland Medicine.

It was seen as the last hope for Bennett, who had been suffering from terminal heart disease.

That meant doctors were able to receive an emergency authorization for the operation from the FDA.

Dr Bartley Griffith was Bennett's surgeon:

"He's awake. He is recovering and speaking to his caregivers, and we hope that the recovery that he is having now will continue."

"We've never done this in a human and I like to think that we, we have given him a better option than what continuing his therapy would have been. But whether it's a day, week, month, year, I don't know."

The pig heart was provided by Revivicor, a regenerative medicine company based in Virginia.

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.

"Probably the biggest risk is now. We seem to be past what we consider the hyperacute rejection phase that we would normally have seen in an animal organ that wasn't specially treated. So we feel good about that one.

So we're preparing for the next attack on his organ, and we know that the pig heart will be attacked by different soldiers in our body. Different immune players can take it out, and we, we have designed a treatment plan in addition to the humanized, genetically-edited heart to try to account for that."

If the surgery ends up being a success, scientists hope pig organs could help alleviate shortages of donor organs.

According to government statistics, there are about 11,000 Americans currently waiting for an organ transplant and more than 6,000 patients die each year before getting one.

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