Milestone: Human Patient Receives Pig Heart Transplant

In a breakthrough years in the making, 57-year-old Dave Bennett has become the first human recipient of an organ from a genetically edited porcine donor.  The nine-hour procedure took place at the University of Maryland Medical Center under the leadership of surgeon Bartley Griffith.  Bennett, who began experiencing severe chest pain in October, was not eligible to receive an artificial heart pump or human heart transplant.  Knowing it was his best chance at survival, he agreed to the experimental surgery, and in the process has made history.

Lead surgeon Dr. Bartley Griffith bedside with David Bennett, recipient of the first pig-to-human heart transplant
Lead Surgeon Dr. Bartley Griffith poses with patient David Bennett

As the donation of vital human organs is largely dependent on the death of healthy donors, there has long been a problem of supply and demand.  Currently, over 100,000 people are on transplant waitlists.  Of these, the wait becomes too long for about 6,000 annually, who pass away before their names reach the top of the lists.  Bennett’s successful surgery provides some much-needed hope to everyone affected by those waitlists: if pigs can be successfully bred to provide a given organ and a human body successfully receives that organ, some of the stress can be taken off of the human donor and transplant system.