World first as man in US receives pig heart transplant

A 57 year old transplant patient in the US is recovering well after being implanted with the heart of a genetically modified pig, in never-been-done-before surgery.

David Bennett, who had been diagnosed with terminal heart disease, had the potentially life-saving operation at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. In a statement the university said that Mr Bennett knew it was his last chance and was willing to give it a go.

His medical team has reported the patient is doing well, three days post surgery.

The pig-to-human heart transplant was made possible due to breakthroughs in gene editing, and if successful could be used in cases where there are shortages of human donors. Pigs have often been considered as organ donors, as their hearts are similar in size to those of humans. However, prior attempts at transplants have failed due to genetic differences.


In order to carry out the procedure the university obtained an emergency authorisation from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Dr Bartley Griffith, the surgeon who implanted the heart, issued a statement:

This was a breakthrough surgery and brings us one step closer to solving the organ shortage crisis. There are simply not enough donor human hearts available to meet the long list of potential recipients.

About 110,000 Americans are waiting for an organ transplant, and more than 6,000 patients die each year before getting one, according to the official Organ Donor website in the US.


The pig heart that was used in the surgery was provided by a Revivicor, a Virginia-based company. On the morning the procedure took place, the heart was placed in a special device to preserve its functionality.