Pig Heart Transplant Patient Dies 6 Weeks After Surgery In MD
Patch Regional Manager Deb Belt wrote this story.
BALTIMORE, MD — A Maryland man died Oct. 30, six weeks after he became the second person to receive a pig heart in a transplant at University of Maryland Medical Center. Lawrence Faucette, 58, of Frederick, was the world’s second recipient of genetically-modified pig heart transplant; both surgeries were done at University Maryland School of Medicine.
Faucette — who had terminal heart disease — received the transplant on Sept. 20 and lived for nearly six weeks following the surgery, the facility said.
"Mr. Faucette had made significant progress after his surgery, engaging in physical therapy, spending time with family members, and playing cards with his wife, Ann," UMMC said. "In recent days, his heart began to show initial signs of rejection — the most significant challenge with traditional transplants involving human organs, as well."
Faucette, a Navy veteran and father of two, was ineligible for a traditional heart transplant because of other health problems when doctors at the University of Maryland School of Medicine offered the highly experimental surgery, the Associated Press reported.
In a statement released by the hospital, Faucette’s wife, Ann, said her husband “knew his time with us was short and this was his last chance to do for others. He never imagined he would survive as long as he did."
The Maryland team last year performed the world’s first transplant of a heart from a genetically altered pig into another dying man. David Bennett survived two months before that heart failed, for reasons that aren’t completely clear although signs of a pig virus later were found inside the organ. Lessons from that first experiment led to changes, including better virus testing, before the second attempt, the Associated Press reported.
“Mr. Faucette's last wish was for us to make the most of what we have learned from our experience,” Dr. Bartley Griffith, the surgeon who led the transplant at the University of Maryland Medical Center, said in a statement.
"Mr. Faucette was a scientist who not only read and interpreted his own biopsies, but who understood the important contribution he was making in advancing this field," said Dr. Muhammad M. Mohiuddin, program director of the Cardiac Xenotransplantation Program at UMSOM. "As with the first patient, David Bennett Sr., we intend to conduct an extensive analysis to identify factors that can be prevented in future transplants; this will allow us to continue to move forward and educate our colleagues in the field on our experience.”
In mid-October, the hospital said Faucette had been able to stand and released video showing him working hard in physical therapy to regain the strength needed to attempt walking.
Attempts at animal-to-human organ transplants — called xenotransplants — have failed for decades, as people’s immune systems immediately destroyed the foreign tissue. Now scientists are trying again, using pigs genetically modified to make their organs more humanlike.
Many scientists hope xenotransplants one day could compensate for the huge shortage of human organ donations. More than 100,000 people are on the nation’s list for a transplant, most awaiting kidneys, and thousands will die waiting.
This story contains reporting by the Associated Press.
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