Transplantation cardiaque

Death of the patient who had received the first heart transplant from a pig

The field of medicine has made a major breakthrough by successfully transplanting a heart from a genetically modified pig into a human. This operation was performed to save the life of 57-year-old David Bennett, who was deemed ineligible for a human transplant. Unfortunately, we have just learned that Bennett died two months after the operation.

Bennett had been admitted to the hospital in the state of Maryland, in the eastern United States, in October 2021. On January 7, 2022, he benefited from the said heart transplant, but he finally died on March 8. . This procedure had however revived the hope of progress in the field of organ donation between species, an alternative which could solve the problem of chronic shortage of human organs.

Despite Bennett’s passing, the medical team who performed the surgery still remain optimistic about its future success. Muhammad Mohiuddin, director of the University of Maryland Cardiac Xenotransplantation Program, said the team was able to gather invaluable data during this experiment. The researchers plan to continue the work in future clinical trials.

The evolution of the patient’s state of health after the transplant

According to the hospital, the transplanted heart had functioned very well for several weeks after surgery, with no signs of rejection. Bennett was able to spend time with his family, attend physical therapy, watch the Super Bowl, and he even wanted to go home to see his dog Lucky. However, a few days before his death, his condition began to deteriorate. Seeing that his health was not going to improve, the medical team provided him with compassionate palliative care and he was able to communicate with his family.

According to Bartley Griffith, the surgeon who performed the procedure, “the patient was brave and noble and he fought until the end”. No obvious cause was identified at the time of his death, but Mohiuddin said Bennett had bouts of infection. The medical team would have struggled to maintain a balance between his immunosuppression and the control of his infection.

A shortage of human organs

According to official statistics, approximately 110,000 Americans are currently waiting for an organ transplant, and more than 6,000 patients die each year before getting one. To try to meet the demand, doctors have started turning to xenotransplantation. Since the 17th century, several experiments have been carried out, including the transplantation of a baboon’s heart into a newborn named ” baby fae in 1984. However, the latter only survived 20 days.

More recently, attention has turned to pigs. The size of their organs is indeed similar to that of human organs. Also, they grow fast, have large litters, and since they are bred to be a food source, the use of their organs will be less controversial.

Pig heart valves are now widely used in humans. Their skin is also grafted onto major burn victims. We are therefore waiting to see how this technique, which could save many patients, will evolve.

SOURCE: sciencealert

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