First transplant of a genetically altered pig heart into a person sparks ethics questions

A medical team at the University of Maryland Medical Center announced Monday that it had accomplished a world-first; its surgeons had transplanted a heart from a genetically engineered pig into a human patient. The doctors performed the eight-hour procedure Friday evening. As of Monday night, the man, 57-year-old David Bennett, is awake and breathing on his own, and his new organ is pumping away, according to his doctors.

Bennett had terminal heart failure and was too sick to qualify for a human heart transplant or a mechanical assist device, the lead surgeon said. The pig heart, from an animal created by a Virginia biotech company, was the only option to try to prolong his life. “It was either die or do this transplant,” Bennett said in a hospital news release. “I know it’s a shot in the dark, but it’s my last choice.”

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