Genetically modified pig heart -> man

**In a First, Man Receives a Heart From a Genetically Altered Pig**

**The breakthrough may lead one day to new supplies of animal organs for transplant into human patients.**

**By Roni Caryn Rabin, The New York Times, Jan. 10, 2022**

**A 57-year-old man with life-threatening heart disease has received a heart from a genetically modified pig, a groundbreaking procedure that offers hope to hundreds of thousands of patients with failing organs...Mr. Bennett decided to gamble on the experimental treatment because he would have died without a new heart, had exhausted other treatments and was too sick to qualify for a human donor heart, family members and doctors said...**

**The pig had 10 genetic modifications. Four genes were knocked out, or inactivated, including one that encodes a molecule that causes an aggressive human rejection response.**

**A growth gene was also inactivated to prevent the pig’s heart from continuing to grow after it was implanted...In addition, six human genes were inserted into the genome of the donor pig — modifications designed to make the porcine organs more tolerable to the human immune system....** [end quote]

This is a first. It’s hard to say how long the recipient will live, though the pig’s heart is beating well. Rejection is the danger.

Many animals have been genetically modified for research purposes. A Chinese lab is even selling genetically-modified “micropigs” as pets to help fund their research.…

I’m a strong proponent of organ donation and have a notification on my driver’s license. But there is a much greater demand for human organs than the need. If pig hearts can be used, many lives could be saved.



Keith Reemtsma performed the first xenotransplantation, putting chimpanzee kidneys into patients in 1963 when he was at Tulane. One woman survived 9 months. Reemtsma influenced James Hardy, who went on to transplant a chimpanzee heart into a human in 1964 - this patient only lived a few hours. All this was accomplished with very primitive immunosuppression and of course no genetic modification.

Reemtsma was a larger than life character. I scrubbed with him at Columbia as a medical student in 1990 for a weekend heart transplant. I know the case was in March because he complained about missing the NCAA basketball tournament. I later ran into him at a Columbia re-union in the early 1990’s at a American College of Surgeons meeting in New Orleans. He was definitely holding court, surrounded by a few generations of Columbia trained surgeons, swinging around a huge Martini glass.

A true giant of medicine.

Mehmet Oz was also at Columbia in those days when he was actually a doctor… Also Eric Kandel who went on to win a Nobel Prize in Medicine, lectured my neuroscience class.

I published a few not important papers in the transplantation literature in the mid 1990’s while at USC but then turned my attention to oncology. I did run into Vaughn Starnes during this period, famous for doing Joe Weider’s and Arnold Schwartzenegger’s heart surgeries.

Incidentally, had to cancel a couple of oncology cases this week. Hospital filling up with unvaccinated COVID patients and hospital staffing problems due to exposure and infection. It’s bad.


This is a first.

I think it’s the third time. At least according to a podcast I heard recently (one of the Freakonomics ones I think). The first two were also in humans, but they were comatose. This is the first one put into a mostly functioning human.