Pig Heart Transplant Recipient Dies 6 Weeks After Surgery

The 58-year-old man is the second person ever to undergo a pig heart transplant.

On September 20, Lawrence Faucette, a Navy veteran, underwent a highly experimental surgery in which surgeons from the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) replaced his failing heart with a heart from a genetically modified pig.

Faucette was ineligible for a traditional heart transplant due to other health conditions and would have died unless a UMSOM transplant team led by Bartley Griffith performed the procedure.

In a UMSOM video released one month after surgery, doctors reported that Faucette was healing well and had begun physical therapy to assist in his recovery.

"Dr. Griffith and his entire staff have been incredible," Faucette said. "But again, nobody knows from this point forward, we're going to do the best we can. At least now I have hope, and I have a chance."

However, according to a UMSOM statement, Faucette passed away on October 30. Doctors say the transplanted heart began to show signs of rejection, which led to Faucette’s death.

Last year, the UMSOM team performed the first-ever pig heart transplant on David Bennett, who died two months later. However, after examining the organ, doctors found signs of a pig virus, which may have contributed to the transplant's failure.

Since then, the team of doctors has made some adjustments, including new tests to detect pathogens of latent pig viruses.

Animal-to-human transplants, AKA xenotransplants, have had limited success, primarily due to the immune system attacking the transplanted organ. However, the development of pigs genetically modified to have more human-like organs has helped avoid this adverse reaction.

UMSOM says about 110,000 people in the United States are awaiting transplants, but more than 6,000 individuals die each year before getting transplant surgery. Experimental surgeries like Faucette's pig heart transplant could pave the way for future xenotransplants, which could help ease the organ shortage and potentially save thousands of lives.

Muhammad M. Mohiuddin, M.D., Professor of Surgery and Scientific/Program Director of the Cardiac Xenotransplantation Program at UMSOM, said, "As with the first patient, David Bennett, Sr., we intend to conduct an extensive analysis to identify factors that can be prevented in future transplants. This will allow us to continue to move forward and educate our colleagues in the field on our experience."

This article was originally published on October 25 and was updated on November 1

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