David Bennett, the man with terminal heart disease who made history as the first person to receive a genetically-modified (GM) pig heart, has died.
University of Maryland Medical System confirmed that the 57-year-old passed away on March 8th, 2022.
As That’s Farming reported, Bennett received the transplant on January 7th, 2022 and lived for two months following the surgery.
GM pig heart
This organ transplant, demonstrated for the first time, that a genetically-modified animal heart could function like a human heart without immediate rejection by the body.
Following surgery, the transplanted heart performed “very well for several weeks” without any signs of rejection.
The patient could spend time with his family and participate in physical therapy to help regain strength.
However, according to UMMC, his condition began deteriorating several days ago.
After it became clear that he would not recover, he received compassionate palliative care.
According to a statement from UMMC, “he was able to communicate with his family during his final hours”.
Bartley P. Griffith, MD, who surgically transplanted the pig heart into the patient at UMMC, said:
“We are devastated by the loss of Mr Bennett. He proved to be a brave and noble patient who fought all the way to the end. We extend our sincerest condolences to his family.”
“Mr Bennett became known by millions of people around the world for his courage and steadfast will to live.”
Previously, Griffith described this as a “breakthrough” surgery, which brings medics “one step closer” to solving the organ shortage crisis.
Muhammad M. Mohiuddin, MD, Professor of Surgery and Scientific Director of the Cardiac Xenotransplantation Program at UMSOM, added:
“We are grateful to Mr Bennett for his unique and historic role in helping to contribute to a vast array of knowledge to the field of xenotransplantation.”
Mr Bennett first came to UMMC as a patient in October 2021, where he was bedridden and placed on an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), heart-lung bypass machine, to remain alive.
Medics deemed him ineligible for a conventional heart transplant. Before consenting to receive the transplant, Bennett was fully informed of the procedure’s risks.
Medics told him that the procedure was experimental with unknown risks and benefits.
On December 31st, the US Food and Drug Administration granted an emergency authorisation for the surgery in the hope of saving his life.
Days ahead of the surgery, Bennett said:
“It was either die or do this transplant. I want to live. I know it’s a shot in the dark, but it’s my last choice.”
Provide life-saving benefits
Concluding, Dr Mohiuddin said:
“We have gained invaluable insights learning that the genetically modified pig heart can function well within the human body while the immune system is adequately suppressed.”
“We remain optimistic and plan on continuing our work in future clinical trials.”
“As with any first-in-the-world transplant surgery, this one led to valuable insights that will hopefully inform transplant surgeons to improve outcomes and potentially provide life-saving benefits to future patients.”