In a recent medical breakthrough, doctors at the University of Maryland performed a successful pig-to-human heart transplant on David Faucette. This landmark surgery comes just months after another patient, David Bennett, received a genetically modified pig heart. However, Bennett’s transplant was plagued by complications, including a CMV infection that was likely caused by the therapy used to treat it. To prevent these issues in Faucette’s case, the Maryland doctors developed a new, more sensitive test to detect pig virus DNA and tested the donor pig regularly. Faucette is also receiving traditional immunosuppressive drugs, as well as an investigational antibody therapy called tegoprubart. The next few weeks will be crucial in determining whether Faucette’s pig heart will continue to function properly.
The success of Faucette’s pig-to-human heart transplant brings hope for future organ supply. Other experiments have shown positive results in pig kidney transplants, with the kidney functioning normally for up to two months in brain-dead patients. The US Food and Drug Administration granted emergency approval for Faucette’s surgery through its “compassionate use” pathway, as it was the only option for a patient with a life-threatening condition. These individual cases of pig-to-human transplants will contribute to the evidence needed for more formal clinical trials involving multiple patients. While not every transplant may be successful, these one-off cases will provide valuable insights for further advancements in xenotransplantation.