An American man, David Bennet, has become the very first person in the world to get a heart transplant from a genetically-modified pig.
According to facts filed by the BBC, doctors report that the 57-year-old, is doing well three days after the experimental seven-hour procedure in Baltimore.
The transplant was considered the last hope of saving Mr. Bennet’s life, though it is not clear what his long-term chances of survival are.
“It was either die or do this transplant,” Bennet explained a day towards the surgery.
He further added that it was a shot in the dark, but it was his very last choice.
Doctors at the University of Maryland Medical Centre were granted a special dispensation by the US medical regulations to carry out the procedure, on the basis that Bennett- who has terminal heart disease, who would have otherwise passed on.
Bennet was deemed ineligible for a human transplant, a decision that is often taken by doctors when the patient is in very poor health.
The AFP news agency reports that the pig used in the transplant had been genetically modified to knock out several genes that would have led to the organ being rejected by Bennet’s body.
For the medical team that carried out the transplant, it marks the culmination of years of research and could change lives round the world.
Surgeon Bartley Griffith said the world would bring the world “one step closer to solving the organ shortage crisis.”
Currently 17 people die every day in the US waiting for a transplant, with more than 100,000 reportedly on the waiting list.
Dr. Christine Lau, the chair of the Department of Surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, was in the operating theatre during the surgery.
“He’s more at risk because we require more immunosuppression, slightly different than we would normally do in a human-to-human transplant. How well the patient does from now on is, you know, it’s never been done before so we really don’t know,” she told the BBC.
“People die all the time on the waiting list, waiting for organs. If we could use genetically engineered pig organs they’d never have to wait, they could basically get an organ as they needed it,” she remarked.
Bennet, however is hoping that the transplant will allow him to continue with his life. He was bedridden for six weeks leading up to the surgery, and attached to a machine which kept him alive after he was diagnosed with terminal heart disease.”
“I look forward to getting out of bed after I recover,” he said last week.
On Monday, Bennet was reported to be breathing on his own while carefully being monitored.
However, despite the progress and overwhelming optimism, what happens next is still unclear.
His son David Bennet Jr disclosed to the Associated Press that the family is “in the unknown at this point.”
“He realizes the magnitude of what he has done and he really realizes the importance of it.”