A 58-year-old man who received a pig heart transplant at the University of Maryland School of Medicine last month appears to be improving and has yet to show signs of organ rejection, according to the Associated Press.
A newly released video shows Lawrence Faucette working with a physical therapist to regain his strength.
Mr. Faucette was dying of heart failure before he received the transplant on September 20. was ineligible for a human heart transplant due to other health conditions.
His case is the second in which University of Maryland doctors have tried to use a pig's heart to save someone dying of heart disease: last year, the team performed the first transplant on David Bennett. He lived just two months with the pig's heart. although it is believed that a swine virus may have contributed to his death, the official cause has not been determined.
Before carrying out the second transplant – to Mr Faucette – the team reportedly applied better virus tests to the pig's heart.
Another research team at NYU Langone Health recently transplanted pig hearts into two recently deceased people who were being kept alive by ventilators.
Research into animal-to-human organ transplants – sometimes called xenotransplants – has been popular in part because demand for transplantable organs exceeds supply, according to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
More than 104,000 people are on the transplant waiting list in the US, and every day 17 people die while waiting for a transplant, according to the Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA).
Another person is added to the waiting list every 10 minutes, and last year more than 42,000 transplants took place. Doctors have long encouraged the public to consider registering as an organ donor, as a single donor can save up to eight lives. That said, although 170 million people in the U.S. are organ donors, relatively few deaths lead to successful organ transplants: Only three in 1,000 people die in a way that allows for an organ transplant, per Penn Medicine.
Although scientists have been working on xenotransplantation techniques for decades, the results have been largely unsuccessful. When an animal's organ is placed in a human's body, the immune system usually immediately destroys the foreign tissue.
But so far there are no signs that Mr. Faucette's body is rejecting his new heart.
A spokesman for the hospital where he is recovering said Associated Press that Mr. Faucette is already able to stand and that physical therapists are helping him work toward walking again.
“His heart does everything on its own,” said Muhammad Mohiuddin, MD, director of the cardiac xenotransplantation program at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. Associated Press.