Pig hearts transplanted to two brain-dead patients in US for the first time

NYU Langone Health / AFP

NOS news

For the first time, doctors have transplanted pig hearts into two brain-dead patients in the US. The newspaper reported that Wall Street Journal† The operation was performed at the Teaching Hospital in New York. Corpses flew hundreds of kilometers into the city.

The patients, a 72-year-old man and a 64-year-old woman, both died of myocardial infarction. Both were declared brain dead but kept on ventilators. As a result, the heart and lung functions remained intact, while the brain did not. Relatives donated their bodies to science.

The study lasted for about three days. At that time, the organs were not rejected by the body, a major concern of doctors with such procedures. According to Ian Alvein, professor of transplant surgery at Leiden University Medical Center, this is the first time that a transplanted heart from a pig has been given to brain-dead patients.

However, three brain-dead patients have already received a pig kidney and a pig heart has also been inserted into a living patient. Prior to that, such research focused only on primary organs.

He was the first to receive the pig’s heart

According to The Wall Street Journal, researchers hope the transplant will provide more clarity on how modified pig hearts function in the human body. There is also a need to elucidate how swine viruses can be prevented from being transferred to a human recipient.

Initially, the operation appeared successful, but two months later Bennett’s health suddenly deteriorated and he died. Presumably, Bennett died of a swine virus already present in his heart.

“The investigation into such surgeries is ongoing,” Alvein said. “You can give an animal organ to both living and brain-dead patients.”

See pictures of Bennett’s surgery in January here:

Pig heart transplanted into human for the first time

These studies have different goals. In the brain-dead, according to Alven, more can be learned about whether the organ is working and how existing germs and viruses develop. “You also get more information about immune responses.”

It is safer than research on living patients. But there is also an ethical objection, says the professor. “Brain-dead patients can be cared for in the ICU for a few days, at most weeks, but it is ethically difficult to care for longer than that.”

It’s different for living patients like Bennett. He suffered from a severe heart attack and according to doctors, he had no chance of survival without a transplant. Additionally, the hospital said Bennett knew what he was doing.

In patients like Bennett, researchers are learning more about the long-term effects of transplants. “Therefore the types of research answer different scientific questions,” Alvein concludes.


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