A 58-year-old man with heart failure who received a new heart from a genetically engineered pig died Monday, nearly six weeks after receiving the pig organ, University of Maryland Medical Center officials said Tuesday.
Lawrence Fawcett of Frederick, Maryland, was the second patient at the medical center to have a diseased heart replaced with one from a pig that has been genetically modified so that its organs are more compatible with a human recipient and will not be rejected. by the human immune system.
The first patient, 57-year-old David Bennett, died last year, two months after the transplant. He developed numerous complications and his new heart was found to contain traces of a virus that infects pigs.
Both patients had terminal heart disease when they received the transplanted organs, and neither was able to recover enough to leave the hospital. But while doctors said Mr Bennett was showing no signs of acute rejection of the new heart, which is the most significant risk of an organ transplant, they said Mr Fawcett’s transplanted heart had started to show some early signs of rejection.
“We mourn the loss of Mr. Fawcett, a remarkable patient, scientist, Navy veteran and family man who just wanted a little more time to spend with his loving wife, sons and family,” said Dr. Bartley P. Griffith, surgeon who performed the transplant at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore.
Mr. Fawcett was very involved in his own care, reading and interpreting his own biopsies, said Dr. Muhammad M. Mohiuddin, professor of surgery and scientific program director of the cardiac xenotransplantation program at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
“Mr Fawcett’s last wish was to make the most of what we have learned from our experience so that others can be guaranteed a chance at a new heart when a human organ is unavailable,” said Dr Griffith.
After the operation, the transplanted heart performed well, with no signs of rejection in the first month, and Mr. Fawcett was able to do physical therapy with the goal of regaining his ability to walk, according to a statement from the University of Maryland.
Like Mr. Bennett, the first patient to receive a pig heart, Mr. Fawcett was rejected by transplant programs that use a traditional organ from a deceased human donor. He was too sick, suffering from advanced heart failure as well as peripheral vascular disease and other complications.
He was in end-stage heart failure on Sept. 14 when he was admitted to the University of Maryland Medical Center, and shortly before surgery, his heart stopped and he had to be resuscitated.
His wife, Anne Fawcett, said at the time that the couple were keeping their expectations low and hoped for just a little while longer to sit “on the front porch” drinking coffee together.
After his death, Mrs Fawcett said her husband was a kind and selfless man who hoped his expertise would help save lives through advances in the field of xenotransplantation, or the transplantation of organs or tissues of animal origin into human ones. recipient.
“He knew his time with us was short and this was his last chance to do something for others,” she said in a statement.
Transplant surgeons at a number of medical centers are working fervently to advance the field of xenotransplantation. Most of the work so far has involved transplanting kidneys from genetically engineered pigs into brain-dead patients kept on ventilators to demonstrate that the kidneys can produce urine and perform other basic biological functions without being rejected.
More than 100,000 Americans are living with end-stage organ disease, and there is an acute shortage of human donor organs. Most of those waiting for an organ need a kidney, but fewer than 25,000 kidney transplants are performed each year and thousands die while on the waiting list.