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Maryland man who received second pig heart transplant dies

A man in Maryland has died six weeks after receiving a transplanted heart from a pig, in a highly experimental surgery.

In a tragic turn of events, the second person to receive a transplanted heart from a pig has passed away, almost six weeks after the groundbreaking surgery. Lawrence Faucette, a 58-year-old man suffering from heart failure, underwent the experimental procedure on September 20. Initially, the genetically modified pig heart appeared to be healthy, but it began displaying signs of rejection in recent days, leading to Faucette's untimely death on Monday.

Faucette's wife, Ann, expressed her husband's awareness of his limited time and his desire to make a difference for others. She stated that he never expected to survive as long as he did. Faucette's passing follows the first-ever successful transplant of a heart from a genetically altered pig into another patient, which took place last year. Unfortunately, that patient, David Bennett, only survived for two months before the heart failed. Subsequent investigations revealed signs of a pig virus within the organ. However, valuable lessons were learned from this initial experiment, leading to improvements in virus testing and other aspects before Faucette's procedure.

Dr. Bartley Griffith, the surgeon who led the transplant at the University of Maryland Medical Center, shared Faucette's desire to utilize the knowledge gained from their experiences. Faucette's last wish was for the medical team to make the most of what they had learned. The team will conduct a thorough analysis of the heart and continue studying pig organs to further their understanding of xenotransplants, which involve animal-to-human organ transplants.

For decades, xenotransplants have faced significant challenges due to the immediate rejection of foreign tissue by the recipient's immune system. However, scientists are now attempting to overcome this hurdle by using pigs that have been genetically modified to make their organs more similar to human organs. The hope is that xenotransplants could eventually address the severe shortage of human organ donations. Currently, over 100,000 people in the United States alone are on the waiting list for a transplant, with the majority in need of kidneys. Tragically, many will die before receiving a suitable organ.

Several scientific teams have conducted tests involving pig kidneys and hearts in monkeys and donated human bodies. These experiments aim to gather enough data for the Food and Drug Administration to authorize formal xenotransplant studies. The potential of xenotransplants offers a glimmer of hope for those in dire need of life-saving organ transplants. However, further research and advancements are necessary before this groundbreaking procedure can become a widespread reality.

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