Doctors and scientists of University of Maryland School of Medicine have successfully transplanted heart of a genetically engineered pig (GEP) into an adult patient with end-stage heart disease. This surgery was patient’s only option left for survival after being found ineligible for traditional transplant. The patient is doing well three days after the procedure.
This is the first time that a genetically-engineered animal heart has functioned like a human heart without immediate rejection by the body.
Xenotransplants (i.e., organ transplant from animal to human) were first tried in the 1980s, but were largely abandoned due to the immune system’s rejection of the foreign heart however pig heart valves have been used successfully for replacing valves in humans.
In this case, the donor pig had been genetically modified to avoid rejection. A total of ten gene edits were made in the donor pig – three genes responsible for rapid rejection of pig organs by human were deleted, six human genes responsible for immune acceptance of the pig heart were inserted in the genome of the donor pig and one additional gene in the pig responsible for excessive growth of the heart tissue was removed.
This surgery is very significant because this brings us one step closer to solving the organ shortage crisis through use of genetically engineered animal donors to avoid immune rejection by the human recipient.
University of Maryland School of Medicine. News – University of Maryland School of Medicine Faculty Scientists and Clinicians Perform Historic First Successful Transplant of Porcine Heart into Adult Human with End-Stage Heart Disease. Posted January 10, 2022. Available at https://www.medschool.umaryland.edu/news/2022/University-of-Maryland-School-of-Medicine-Faculty-Scientists-and-Clinicians-Perform-Historic-First-Successful-Transplant-of-Porcine-Heart-into-Adult-Human-with-End-Stage-Heart-Disease.html