The world’s first individual to obtain a heart transplantation from a pig died two months after the breakthrough procedure, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.
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Doctors confirmed that David Bennett’s condition had been deteriorating for several days before his death, albeit the cause of death has yet to be determined.
Bennett, 57, had the operation in January after being diagnosed with terminal cardiac illness, and his family had already understood that this was a “shot in the dark” and the “last choice” for saving his life.
“We are grateful for every innovative moment, every crazy dream, every sleepless night that went into this historic effort,” following his father’s death, David Bennett Jr. issued this statement.
“This organ transplant demonstrated for the first time that a genetically-modified animal heart can function like a human heart without immediate rejection by the body,” at the time of the surgery, doctors at the Maryland facility noted.
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The transplant was regarded as a “breakthrough surgery” that puts society “one step closer to solving the organ shortage crisis” by the medical expert who executed it.
Past efforts at such transplants were unsuccessful mostly because the recipients’ bodies repelled the animal organ. The operation in Maryland was unique in that the pig was genetically engineered to eliminate the animal’s genes in order for the body to accept the organ.
Bennett had initially been able to use the pig heart, and the hospital had posted a video of him enjoying the Super Bowl from his hospital bed in February.