In a groundbreaking medical procedure, doctors in Maryland have successfully transplanted a pig heart into a human patient for the second time. The patient, David Faucette, suffered from end-stage heart failure and became the second person to receive a genetically modified pig heart. The first patient, David Bennett, unfortunately died due to complications related to a common viral infection known as cytomegalovirus (CMV). Researchers believe that the treatment given to Bennett, intravenous immunoglobulin, which is intended to boost the immune system, may have damaged the pig organ. To prevent rejection, Faucette is being treated with traditional immunosuppressive drugs along with an investigational antibody therapy called tegoprubart.
The doctors who performed the transplant have taken additional precautions to prevent complications. They developed a highly sensitive test to detect any trace of pig virus DNA, a major concern in xenotransplantation. The donor pig was regularly tested for CMV and other porcine viruses, bacteria, and parasites. Faucette is being treated with tegoprubart, a drug that blocks a protein involved in immune rejection. It has shown promising results in early clinical trials and has extended the lifespan of transplanted pig organs in non-human primates. However, the next few weeks will be crucial to determine if the transplanted pig heart will continue to function properly.
These individual cases of pig-to-human transplants are significant in generating evidence for future clinical trials involving multiple patients. The success of these one-off cases will contribute to understanding the efficacy and safety of these procedures. The US Food and Drug Administration granted emergency approval for Faucette’s surgery through its compassionate use pathway, as it was the only option for a patient with a life-threatening condition. While there is no certainty that pig hearts will work in every case, these groundbreaking transplants are expected to provide valuable insights and pave the way for more elaborate studies in the future.