MEDICALLY REVIEWED

Second Pig Heart Transplant Marks Historic Achievement at University of Maryland Medical Center

Groundbreaking Pig Heart Transplant at UMMC: A Leap Towards Solving the Organ Shortage Crisis

In a significant medical breakthrough, the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) and the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) announced the world’s second successful pig heart transplant into Lawrence Faucette, a 58-year-old with terminal heart disease, on September 20, 2023.

After the successful operation, furthermore, Mr. Faucette began his recovery process. Additionally, his ability to communicate with loved ones was not impaired. Meanwhile, the medical teams from UMMC and UMSOM are closely monitoring his condition. Despite the uncertainties of xenotransplantation, the progress is promising. Ultimately, this breakthrough marks a significant advancement in the field, offering hope and a chance for life to many patients in the future.

The Second Historical Surgery

Performed by renowned surgeons from UMSOM at UMMC, this experimental procedure followed the first such transplant in January 2022. Like David Bennett, the first recipient, Faucette, a 20-year Navy veteran and lab technician at the National Institutes of Health, faced near-certain death from heart failure and complications with internal bleeding, making him ineligible for a traditional human heart transplant. 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted emergency approval for this life-saving surgery under its compassionate use pathway.

The Brave Journey of Lawrence Faucette

Facing a challenging path, Faucette, a husband and father from Frederick, MD, expressed his sole hope in the pig heart transplant. “At least now I have hope, and I have a chance,” he shared in a pre-surgery interview. Ann Faucette, his wife, added their humble expectation: more time together, cherishing simple moments like enjoying coffee on the front porch.

Advancing Xenotransplantation

Drs. Bartley P. Griffith and Muhammad M. Mohiuddin, experts in xenotransplantation, led this groundbreaking procedure, contributing vital data for clinical trials and potential future xenotransplants. 

Dr. Griffith, a distinguished professor in transplant surgery and clinical director of the Cardiac Xenotransplantation Program at UMSOM, expressed gratitude to Faucette for his bravery and commitment to advancing this crucial field.

The Genetically Modified Pig

Belonging to United Therapeutics Corporation, the subordinate company Revivicor supplied the genetically-modified pig. This pig, crucially, carried ten unique gene edits. These edits notably ensured the elimination of rapid antibody-mediated rejection and simultaneously promoted immune acceptance.

Prior to the groundbreaking surgery, the surgical team, which notably included Dr. Griffith and Dr. Mohiuddin, diligently preserved the pig’s heart in the XVIVO Heart Box. This preservation significantly ensured an optimal condition for transplantation, maximising the likelihood of a successful operation and patient recovery.

Continuous Monitoring and Future Steps

Faucette, informed of the procedure’s risks and benefits, consented to the transplant, showcasing his trust and hope in medical innovation. With extensive prior research and experience, including a detailed study of Mr. Bennett’s post-transplant condition, UMSOM and UMMC are geared for continuous monitoring and further advancements in xenotransplantation, potentially addressing the organ shortage crisis and saving thousands of lives annually.

This second successful pig heart transplant at UMMC symbolizes significant progress in xenotransplantation, a collaborative triumph of science, courage, and hope, highlighting the relentless efforts and expertise of the UMMC and UMSOM teams, and the unwavering bravery of patients like Lawrence Faucette.

Image credit: Deborah Kotz/University of Maryland School of Medicine/AP via CNN

References

UM Medicine Faculty-Scientists and Clinicians Perform Second Historic Transplant of Pig Heart into Patient with End-Stage Cardiovascular Disease. (2023, September 22). University of Maryland Medical Center. https://www.umms.org/ummc/news/2023/um-medicine-clinicians-perform-second-historic-transplant-of-pig-heart-into-patient

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