After a first trial in 2022, surgeons at the University of Maryland Medical Center last week transplanted a genetically modified pig heart into a patient suffering from serious heart disease. Focus on this medical advance and real hope to compensate for the lack of grafts.
It’s a surgical feat. For the second time, a genetically modified pig heart was transplanted into a patient – a 58-year-old man.
A “transgenic” pig’s heart
It was a former retired soldier, Lawrence Faucette, who was able to benefit from this extraordinary transplant on September 20.
This operation – xenotransplantation – “aims to transplant a healthy graft (here an entire organ, the heart) into a patient, coming from a biological species different from that of the recipient“, specifies Inserm in a press release.
The other particularity of this transplant? The animal’s heart has been modified. In total, ten genes were affected by the Revivicor firm and “tthree genes responsible for acute rejection of pig organs by humans, via antibodies, were “eliminated” in the donor pig“, specifies the press release from the University of Maryland.
Finally, “six human genes responsible for immune acceptance of the pig heart have been inserted into the genome“and an additional gene was deleted in the animal,”to prevent excessive growth of pig heart tissue“.
A xenograft a source of hope for the patient
For Lawrence Faucette precisely, suffering from a fatal heart disease and declared “ineligible to receive a human heart transplant“, this solution represented “the only option” to live.
“At least now I have hope and I have a chance“, he declared. “I’ll fight tooth and nail for every breath of air“.
A chance for him and for his wife, who confided not having “expectations other than spending more time together“.
““We are once again offering a dying patient a chance to live longer, and we are incredibly grateful to Dr. Faucette for his courage and willingness to help us advance our knowledge in this area.”said Bartley P. Griffith, MD, whose team performed this transplant.
Rejection, a major risk
Although the retired soldier’s operation went well – his new heart works without assistance – all is not yet won.
In order to avoid potential rejection (the body rejects the organ in question, considered foreign, editor’s note) the former soldier must take immunosuppressive treatments and follow a new antibody-based therapy. The new therapy developed by Eledon Pharmaceuticals is an experimental antibody, called tegoprubart.
The first operated patient survived two months
Already in 2022, a patient received a heart transplant from a genetically modified pig.
Suffering from end-stage heart failure and arrhythmia, “he was operated on on January 7, 2022 on a compassionate basis when there was no longer any other alternative therapeutic solution to offer him“, specifies Inserm. David Bennett died around two months after the operation.”due to a multitude of factors, including his poor health,” the University of Maryland said.