After a seven-hour transplant, David Bennett, 57, is doing fine just three days after the experimental procedure. According to the BBC, the experimental transplant was Bennett’s last hope for another chance at life.
Just one day before the procedure, Bennett explained, “It was either die or do this transplant.” And while the transplant is now completed, there is no clear answer as to how much longer the transplant will get him.
“I know it’s a shot in the dark, but it’s my last choice.”
To carry out the procedure, doctors from the University of Maryland Medical Center were given a special dispensation by U.S regulators to perform the procedure. If they hadn’t been approved, Bennett would have been left for dead.
For decades, scientists have been working to understand how we can save lives using animal organs. Currently, over 100,000 people are sitting on waitlists for a transplant. And sadly, 6,000 of them die each year waiting for their transplant.
Since pigs have similar organs to humans, scientists look to them as the most obvious candidate for use.
There is a massive shortage of human organs donated for transplant, so if this does work, it could mean that thousands of more lives could be saved. Unfortunately, in the past xenotransplants have failed, because oftentimes, human bodies rapidly reject animal organs.
The major difference in Bennett’s case is that the pig had undergone gene-editing to remove sugar from the cells that typically caused rejection to take place.
Karen Kaschke, a research scholar at the Hastings Center is working on the first clinical trials of this kind, and according to her, this will be an opportunity to gather data before proceeding to do more transplants on others. “Rushin into animal-to-human transplants without this information would not be advisable,” she said.
“He realizes the magnitude of what was done and he realizes the importance of it,” David Bennett Jr. said of his father. “He could not live, or he could last a day, or he could last a couple of days. I mean, we’re in the unknown at this point.”