Indian Surgeon Who Stirred Controversy With Pig Heart Transplant in 1997

Health News
3 min read

(In a first, doctors in Maryland, USA, have transplanted a genetically modified pig's heart into a 57-year-old man with life-threatening heart disease. FIT is republishing this story in light of the development.)

In what is being hailed as a breakthrough transplant, a US medical team has succeeded in temporarily attaching a pig's kidney to a person recently.

In the surgery which took place at NYU Langone Health on 25 September, the kidney was attached to a brain dead patient who was followed for only 54 hours.

Although many questions remain to be answered about the long-term consequences of the transplant, experts in the field said the procedure represented a milestone.

Xenotransplantation, the process of grafting or transplanting organs or tissues between different species, goes way back.

Researchers have long sought to grow organs in pigs suitable for transplantation into humans.


The Assam Doctor Who Tried Pig Heart Transplant: What Happened? 

In 1997, Dr Dhani Ram Baruah, a transplant surgeon from Assam, along with Hong Kong surgeon Dr Jonathan Ho Kei-Shing, conducted a pig-to-human heart and lung transplant in Guwahati.

The transplant was conducted at his very own facility - the Dhani Ram Baruah Heart Institute, and Institute of Applied Human Genetic Engineering at Sonapur outside Guwahati.

It was conducted on a 32-year-old farmer Purno Saikia, who died a week later after developing an infection.

"He developed new anti-hyperacute rejection biochemical solution to treat donor’s heart and lung and blind its immune system to avoid rejection," Dr Baruah was quoted as saying by The Indian Express.

The transplant stirred controversy, and both the doctors were arrested within a fortnight for culpable homicide and under the Transplantation of Human Organs Act, 1994, and imprisoned for 40 days.

An inquiry by the Assam government found that the procedure was unethical.

Besides, the Dr Dhaniram Heart Institute and Research Centre was found to have “neither applied for nor obtained registration” as required under the transplant laws.

When the controversy occurred, Baruah was a heart surgeon who had international recognition, according to The Times of India.

Baruah was asked by the then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and Assam Chief Minister Hiteshwar Saikia to set up an open heart surgery clinic in Assam.

He also set up a facility in Mumbai to produce the patented Baruah heart valve in 1989, TOI reported.

Baruah’s Tryst With More Controversy

Baruah was criticised by the media and the medical community after the controversy, due to which he was reportedly confined to the campus for two years.

However, he has continued to resurface with claims of pathbreaking research since then.

In 2008, Baruah claimed to have developed a "genetically engineered" vaccine that would correct congenital heart defects, TOI reported.

In 2015, Baruah claimed he had discovered “cure” for HIV/AIDS and that he had already “cured” 86 persons in the past seven or eight years, according to The Indian Express.

“I and my team have worked hard for the past 18 years and found the cure for HIV/AIDS by using biological molecules isolated from edible medicinal plants that are available in the Himalayan region. I have named them Baruah Biological Combat Genes which are used as biological missiles to kill the dreaded HIV virus to improve the immune system,” Baruah was quoted as saying by The Indian Express.

He also presented before the media a patient who, according to Baruah, was tested HIV-positive in 2008, but was now “totally cured”.

(With inputs from The Indian Express & Times of India.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

Speaking truth to power requires allies like you.
Become a Member
Read More