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First Ever Man To Receive Pig Heart Transplant Has Died

First Ever Man To Receive Pig Heart Transplant Has Died

David Bennett received the organ in a groundbreaking experiment in January.

The first man to ever receive a heart transplant using an organ from a pig has passed away two months after the procedure took place.

David Bennett passed away at the age of 57 at the University of Maryland Medical Center on Tuesday, March 8, after undergoing the operation on January 7.

Doctors have not announced an exact cause of death, though said his condition had started deteriorating several days prior to his death.

Bennett’s son, David Bennett Jr., had previously told The Associated Press his father knew there was no guarantee it would work, though in a statement released through the University of Maryland School of Medicine the son said the family is 'grateful for every innovative moment, every crazy dream, every sleepless night that went into this historic effort.'

He added: 'We hope this story can be the beginning of hope and not the end.'

Bennett, who worked as a handyman in Hagerstown, Maryland, became a candidate for the transplant after having previously been given no chance of survival. The 57-year-old had been ineligible for a human heart transplant, bedridden and on life support when the procedure took place.

Previous attempts to transplant animal organs into a human recipient have failed largely because patients’ bodies rapidly rejected the animal organ, AP reports, though Maryland surgeons attempted to make this procedure more successful by using a heart from a gene-edited pig, which had genes removed to prevent the hyper-fast rejection and the addition of human genes to help the body accept the organ.

David Bennett knew there was no guarantee the surgery would work. (Pixabay)
David Bennett knew there was no guarantee the surgery would work. (Pixabay)

In the weeks after the operation, the Maryland hospital issued periodic updates which indicated Bennett was slowly recovering. Last month, he was seen to be enjoying the Super Bowl from his hospital bed while working with his physical therapist.

Commenting on Bennett's death, Dr. Bartley Griffith, who performed the surgery, said: 'We are devastated by the loss of Mr. Bennett. He proved to be a brave and noble patient who fought all the way to the end.'

The 57-year-old survived significantly longer with the pig heart than one of the last similar cases; an infant who lived for 21 days after receiving a baboon’s heart in 1984.

Dr. Muhammad Mohiuddin, scientific director of the Maryland university’s animal-to-human transplant program, said Bennett's experience has allowed medics to gain 'invaluable insights learning that the genetically modified pig heart can function well within the human body while the immune system is adequately suppressed.'

Bennett's family hopes his experiences will contribute to further efforts to end the organ shortage faced by hospitals.

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Featured Image Credit: University Of Maryland School Of Medicine

Topics: Health, US News, Science, Animals