Genetically modified pig hearts were transplanted into the bodies of dead people to research the technology
Two genetically modified pig hearts were transplanted into the bodies of recently deceased people connected to ventilators. The bodies were brain dead, but retained some functionality, which allowed scientists to assess the success of the operation.
New York University team announced the transplant. The only thing that distinguished the operation from the usual one was the organ itself. The two pig hearts were provided by the biotech company Revivicor, which raised the genetically modified animals. The pigs had 10 modifications — four to block pig genes and prevent rejection and six to add human genes.
Transplants were carried out on June 16 and July 9. Each of the recipients was observed for another three days. The operations were successful – the hearts worked normally, and there were no signs of rejection from the bodies.
Such operations are the latest step forward in the field of xenotransplantation – the transplantation of organs from animals to humans. Scientists believe that their success will help reduce the shortage of organs for patients in need of transplantation.
We remind that in January of this year, a pig’s heart was transplanted into a human. It was also provided by Revivicor. The patient initially responded well to the transplant, but died of a heart attack in March. The reasons for this are still unknown, but it is suspected that infection of the heart with a pig virus may have contributed to the death.
Pig hearts are supposed to contain no viruses, but experts say they are difficult to detect. The New York University team additionally tested the hearts for the presence of viruses and set aside a separate operating room for similar experiments.
According to the Director of the Transplant Institute, tests on dead patients are important because they allow for a more detailed study of all processes.
“The focus is really on learning, studying, measuring, and trying to really unravel what is going on with this brand new, incredible technology,” he says.