The first person ever to receive a genetically modified pig’s heart transplant has died, two months after U.S. doctors performed the historic surgery.
David Bennett, 57, died on Tuesday after saying goodbye to his family, according to doctors at the University of Maryland Medical Center where the surgery was performed.
Dr. Bartley P. Griffith, who performed the surgery on January 7, mourned Bennett in a statement on Wednesday, saying that his team is "devastated" by the news.
“He proved to be a brave and noble patient who fought all the way to the end. We extend our sincerest condolences to his family,” said Griffith.
"There was no obvious cause identified at the time of his death," a hospital spokesperson told the New York Times.
Bennett had terminal heart disease and he agreed to the surgery after exhausting all other options early this year.
He first became a patient at UMMC back in October of 2021 and was in pretty rough shape and needed the help of machines to stay alive.
Even though he was not eligible for a conventional heart transplant, the doctors gave him the option to receive a genetically modified pig’s heart. They also informed him of the risks associated with the experimental procedure.
Bennett opted for the surgery, and eventually, the Food and Drug Administration granted a life-saving emergency authorization for it to go forward.
The weeks following the surgery seemed to go well for Bennett, and he was even able to spend time with his family and watch the Super Bowl with his physical therapist, the hospital said.
The UMMC says Bennett’s health began deteriorating a few days before his death, and when it became clear that he wouldn’t recover, they provided him with compassionate palliative care.
“As with any first-in-the-world transplant surgery, this one led to valuable insights that will hopefully inform transplant surgeons to improve outcomes and potentially provide life-saving benefits to future patients,” the hospital said.
Although he didn't survive, he did get a few extra months with his family while being part of a major step in organ transplantation medicine.
“We are grateful to Mr. Bennett for his unique and historic role in helping to contribute to a vast array of knowledge to the field of xenotransplantation,” said Dr. Muhammad M. Mohiuddin from UMMC.
Bennett’s son, David Bennett Jr., thanked all the doctors and the team from UMMC for trying to help his father.
“We were able to spend some precious weeks together while he recovered from the transplant surgery, weeks we would not have had without this miraculous effort,” said his son.