Pig-heart transplant may mean ‘hearts on demand’, says operation’s surgeon


    he US surgeon who transplanted a pig heart into a man with terminal heart disease says the historic operation could see “hearts on demand” for patients in the future.

    Dr Bartley P Griffith,  Distinguished Professor of Transplant Surgery at the University of Maryland, said he viewed the case as “a stunner” in terms of its broader medical implications.

    David Bennett, 57, had been deemed ineligible for a human transplant, a decision taken by doctors when the patient is deemed in very poor health.

    He is said to have thought that medics were joking when the operation was initially proposed.

    Dr Griffith told the PA news agency he had been working on the process for five years and it had been a “real privilege” to be involved.

    “If we can be successful with this experiment there will be plentiful organs and we will find that we will be able to include patients that are currently excluded from human heart transplantation,” he said.

    “We’ll be able to expand wellness to a much broader group of patients and they can have the hearts on demand.

    I mean, this man has a pig’s heart in his chest. Let that sink in a little bit

    “They don’t have to wait three years on a waiting list.

    “It’s incredible, the patient is doing so well today only four days out, the heart’s function looks normal, it is normal.”

    Dr Griffith said Mr Bennett had been “very willing to die” but wanted to undergo the operation so that it might help others in future, adding that there had been “extensive ethical committee involvement”.

    Commenting on Mr Bennett’s condition, he said: “He’s still recovering, he’s been very sick so it’s still thumbs-up stuff, we don’t have a deep discussion.

    “He was very willing to die, he didn’t want to, but he felt that this was an experiment he was willing to undergo even if he didn’t make it, to help others.

    The professor added: “It’s a wonderful team based on reliance and dependence on each other’s knowledge sets.

    (Mark Teske/University of Maryland School of Medicine/AP)

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