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Pig Hearts Transplanted Successfully in 2 Brain Dead Patients

Both cases are being closely monitored and show normal heart function with no signs of rejection.

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A team of doctors at NYU have successfully transplanted two genetically engineered pig hearts into recently brain-dead humans.

This latest success could potentially mark an encouraging step towards addressing the issue of organ shortage and supply by opening doors to viable alternatives.

In a press statement released on Tuesday, 12 June, the doctors involved said that the hearts were functioning normally.

Given the high risk of complications and organ rejection, for the time being, researchers feel like it is safer to conduct xenotransplantation on brain-dead patients rather than those who are alive.

This way, they also get to conduct more invasive biopsies to study the progress.

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Risks With Pig Heart Transplants

Back in January, a 57-year-old man with a life threatening heart condition in Maryland, USA became the first to successfully receive a genetically modified pig's heart.

Although he was stable at first, the man succumbed to complications in March.

It is still unclear why the heart failed, however, a pig virus called porcine cytomegalovirus was detected in the patient's samples which doctors believe might have been a contributing factor.

This time however, strict precautions were also followed to prevent and monitor any zoonotic transmission of porcine cytomegalovirus.

More About the Transplants

Both the patients had recently passed away in June and July but were maintained on ventilator life support.

The transplant surgeries — called xenotransplants — were performed on Thursday, June 16, 2022, and Wednesday, July 6, 2022 respectively.

The hearts came from pigs with 10 genetic modifications, including 6 human transgenes to make them more compatible to human bodies and ensure they aren't rejected.

"Our goal is to integrate the practices used in a typical, everyday heart transplant, only with a nonhuman organ that will function normally without additional aid from untested devices or medicines."
Dr Nader Moazami, Surgical Director, heart transplantation at NYU Langone who led the procedures

“This is the first step in developing a deep understanding of the mechanical, molecular, and immunologic aspects of xenoheart transplantation and the feasibility of utilizing standard clinical practice and tools to do so,” added Alex Reyentovich, MD, medical director of heart transplantation and director of NYU Langone’s advanced heart failure program, in the press release.

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