The Med & Mic™ 01.11.22
Medical and Health News Updates
From Dr. Maria ON Speaking, LLC
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Pig to Human Heart Transplant
A 57-year-old man became the first recipient of a heart transplant from a porcine donor. In the nine-hour surgery on January 7, 2022 at the University of Maryland, he received the organ from a gene-edited pig. The FDA granted compassionate use authorization for the surgery on New Year’s Eve. The patient did not qualify for a heart pump. Whether this is a permanent fix remains to be seen. The pig heart may serve as a bridge to a human heart.
Using a gene editing technique, ten genes were changed. Three genes were altered to stave off immediate rejection in humans, six to prevent blood clots in the heart, and one to keep the pig heart from growing too large.
The work of biologist Luhan Yang has been instrumental in the field of xenotransplantation, the process of grafting organs and tissue from one species into another. In an article from STAT News, she explains that the gene edits “make the pig organs more human-like.” The hope is that these types of transplants might be able to help the legions of people waiting for organs.
Some notable prior events:
* In the 1960s, 13 people received transplanted chimpanzee kidneys. One person lived nine months. The other 12 died within weeks.
* In 1983, a baby born with a congenital heart defect lived 21 days after receiving a baboon heart.
* In September and December of 2022, a team in New York transplanted gene-edited pig kidneys into brain dead patients. Each continued to function on machines for more than two days, and showed the human body would not immediately reject these specially prepared pig organs.
These types of procedures, and this specific case in Maryland, are associated with ethical concerns. The transplant was not performed as part of a formal clinical trial. The immunosuppressive drugs given to the patient are new and have not been adequately tested in appropriate animal studies. Animal rights activists are pressing for alternative solutions to organ shortages.
Every year, 3000 Americans receive a heart transplant. For those on the waitlist, 20 percent die waiting or become too sick to get one. More from USA TODAY.
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