Pork heart – Science – Kommersant

There are millions of people in the world who need organ transplants – hearts, kidneys, liver, lungs. The 57-year-old American with severe heart disease became the first-ever patient to receive a transplant from a genetically modified pig.

The surgery was performed last Friday at the Maryland State Medical Center in Baltimore. By Monday, after a critical 48 hours for any transplant, David Bennett was in good health. “It creates a pulse wave, it creates pressure, this is the heart! – admires Bartley Griffith, director of the heart transplant program, the lead surgeon for this transplant. “We were all shaking, but it works, everything looks fine! Well, of course we don’t know what will happen tomorrow. Nobody has ever done this! “

Geneticists have long been working on the modification of pigs – this is a very convenient species for growing transplants in terms of size. The task is not difficult to formulate and consists in the fact that the human body does not reject the modified pork organ. Research has intensified especially in the last decade, when new technologies for genetic engineering and cloning have appeared.

The previous breakthrough in xenotransplantation was a kidney transplant to a brain-dead person – a successful operation performed in New York a few months ago. In the 1960s, there was an experience of transplanting chimpanzee kidneys to humans, but the recipient lived for only nine months. A baby named Fay was tried in 1983 to have a baboon heart transplant – he died 20 days later.

Now, if it turns out that geneticists have found the right path in xenotransplantology, then the main problem of transplantation will disappear: it will be possible to grow the necessary organs with given genetic characteristics in any amount.

As long as Bennett continues to be connected to the extracorporeal membrane oxygenation system, it is easier to say that the device works for his heart and lungs in the same way as it did before the operation. But in exactly the same way, doctors treat those patients who have received a human transplant.

It is too early to draw conclusions: the patient will have to be monitored after xenotransplantation – even transplants that match perfectly in parameters from the donor are sometimes rejected, and it is not always possible to understand the reason for this.

David Bennett agreed to the experiment, because without a heart transplant, he would die soon. He would hardly wait for a suitable heart from a human donor and decided to try his luck. Griffith recalls a conversation with Bennett prior to the operation: “I say: we will not be able to transplant you a donor heart, you do not pass the criteria. But we can offer you the heart of a genetically modified pig. True, this will be the first such experience! ” And Bennett said, “Okay, but I won’t grunt?”

Leonty Krivov, based on materials from The New York Times

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