BY BRAD DRESS
The University of Maryland School of Medicine has performed the world’s first-ever successful animal-to-human heart transplant with an animal heart, reporting the recipient is doing well days later.
David Bennett, 57, decided to undergo the surgery after he was deemed ineligible for a traditional heart transplant, the medical system wrote in a press release on Monday.
Bert O’Malley, the president and CEO of the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore, hailed the success of the procedure.
“We appreciate the tremendous courage of this live recipient, who has made an extraordinary decision to participate in this groundbreaking procedure to not only potentially extend his own life, but also for the future benefit of others,” he said in a statement.
While other animal-to-human heart transplants have been attempted, this procedure marks the first time a patient has received the transplant and not rejected the genetically modified heart.
Bartley Griffith, the doctor who transplanted the pig heart into the patient, said the successful procedure “will provide an important new option for patients in the future,” considering the shortage of donated human organs.
“This was a breakthrough surgery and brings us one step closer to solving the organ shortage crisis,” Griffith said in a statement. “There are simply not enough donor human hearts available to meet the long list of potential recipients.”
Bennett had reportedly been suffering from end-stage heart disease. Heart failure affects millions of Americans and is one of the nation’s leading causes of deaths — more than 379,000 reported in 2018, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Since it’s incurable, people who reach end-stage need a transplant to survive, but the organ list is long — 17 people die each day waiting for an organ transplant, the Health Resources and Services Administration says.
Animal transplants, known as xenotransplantation, have been studied for decades in the hope that the successful use of animal hearts would help alleviate long waiting lists. But they have traditionally failed because the body rejects the modified heart.
“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,” Bennett had said in a statement before the surgery.
After the successful procedure, Bennett said he was looking forward to “getting out of bed.”
This article originally appeared on TheHill.