Lawrence Faucette, 58, was the second living person to receive a genetically modified pig heart in a transplant, but he died six weeks after the experimental procedure. He had severe heart disease and was ineligible for a human heart transplant. He agreed to participate in the trial with the hope of helping others in the future.
His doctors said he made significant progress in the first month, but his heart began to show signs of rejection in recent days. Organ rejection is a common challenge in transplants, even with human organs.
“He was a very courageous man who wanted to help others by participating in this research,” said Dr. Bartley Griffith, professor of surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and chief of cardiac surgery at the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC), where the transplant was performed.
“Lawrence was a very special person who touched many lives with his generosity and kindness,” said his wife, Doris Faucette. “He always wanted to help others and make a difference in the world. He was very proud to be part of this groundbreaking research and hoped that it would benefit future patients who need a heart transplant.”
The pig heart transplant was performed by a team of surgeons at UMMC, led by Dr. Griffith and Dr. Muhammad Mohiuddin, professor of surgery at UMSOM and director of xenotransplantation at UMMC. They used a heart from a pig that had been genetically modified to reduce the risk of immune rejection.
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of our patient, who showed tremendous courage and strength throughout this journey,” said Dr. Mohiuddin. “We are grateful for his participation and contribution to this pioneering study that has the potential to save thousands of lives and offer hope to people with end-stage heart failure.”
More than 113,000 people are on the organ transplant list in the US, and 17 people die each day waiting for a donor organ, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services. The shortage of human organs has prompted researchers to explore alternative sources, such as animal organs.
“This is a pioneering study that has the potential to save thousands of lives and offer hope to people with end-stage heart failure,” said Dr. E. Albert Reece, executive vice president for medical affairs at UM Baltimore and dean of UMSOM.
The first person to receive a pig heart transplant was David Bennett, 57, who underwent the surgery on January 6, 2023 at UMMC. He is still alive and recovering well, according to his doctors.
“We knew going into this that there were no guarantees, but we also knew that this was his only option,” said Dr. Sunjay Kaushal, professor of surgery at UMSOM and chief of pediatric cardiac surgery at UMMC, who was part of Faucette’s care team.
The pig heart transplant trial is part of a larger research project funded by the National Institutes of Health and the United Therapeutics Corporation, a biotechnology company that developed the genetically modified pigs.
The researchers hope to enroll more patients in the trial and continue to monitor their outcomes. They also plan to conduct more studies to understand the mechanisms of organ rejection and improve the compatibility between pig hearts and human recipients.
– Second person to receive experimental pig heart transplant dies nearly six weeks after procedure, CNN, November 1, 2023
– With pig-to-human heart transplant, a man hoped to advance medicine. He died weeks later., USA TODAY, October 31, 2023
– Second-ever pig heart transplant recipient dies 6 weeks after surgery: ‘We will miss him tremendously’, MSN, October 31, 2023
– Man dies weeks after receiving world’s second pig heart transplant, Yahoo News, October 31, 2023