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Both procedures using pig hearts were carried out by experts from the University of Maryland School of Medicine, with the first patient dying two months after his transplant last year due to “a multitude of factors including his poor state of health” prior to the operation, the university said in a statement Friday.
‘My only real hope left’
“My only real hope left is to go with the pig heart, the xenotransplant,” Faucette was quoted as saying prior to the procedure. “At least now I have hope, and I have a chance.”
Surgeons prepare for a pig heart transplant into Lawrence Faucette at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. Source: AAP / Mark Teske/University of Maryland School of Medicine
Following the transplant, Faucette was breathing on his own and the new heart was functioning well “without any assistance from supportive devices”, the university said.
Xenotransplants are challenging because the patient’s immune system will attack the foreign organ. Scientists are trying to circumvent the problem by using organs from genetically modified pigs.
Current efforts focus on pigs, which are thought to be ideal donors for humans because of their organ size, their rapid growth and large litters, and the fact they are already raised as a food source.