The experiments unveiled on Tuesday come after the unprecedented but unsuccessful attempt to use a pig’s heart to save a Maryland man, a kind of dress rehearsal before another attempt with a living patient.
Among the lessons: practicing on the dead is important
We learned so much with the first (transplant) that the second was really bettersaid Dr. Nader Moazami, who led the interventions at NYU Langone Health.
You gasp when the pig’s heart starts beating in a human bodyhe added.
This time, Dr. Moazami’s team mimicked a standard heart transplant. Once last month and once last week, researchers visited a facility with genetically modified pigs, removed the hearts, put them on ice, and then transported them hundreds of miles to New York.
They used special methods to make sure no unwanted animal viruses were present, before transplanting the hearts to the two patients, a veteran who had a long history of heart disease and a New Yorker who had previously received a new heart.
They then carried out a battery of tests more intense than a living patient could tolerate – including frequent organ biopsies – before doctors unplugged the systems that were keeping them alive.
The Food and Drug Administration of the United States is already considering allowing a limited number of Americans who need a new organ to volunteer for rigorous studies using pig hearts or kidneys. NYU Langone is one of three transplant centers planning clinical trials, and a meeting to that end is scheduled with the FDA in August.
Tests performed on deceased patients could help fine-tune future trials on living patients, explained Dr David Klassen, of the United Network for Organ Sharingwhich oversees the transplant system in the United States.
This is an important stepsaid Dr. Klassen, who wonders if we could now study the functioning of the organs in a given body to science for about a week instead of just three days.
One of the deceased patients, Lawrence Kelly, had suffered from heart disease for most of his life
and he would be so happy to know that his contribution to this research will help people like him in the futurehis longtime partner Alice Michael told reporters on Tuesday.
Animal-to-human transplants, what researchers call a xenograft, have been attempted for decades without success, since the human immune system attacks foreign tissue almost instantly. But now pigs are being genetically modified to make their organs more closely resemble those of humans, raising hopes that they may one day fill organ shortages.
More than 100,000 people are waiting for a new organ in the United States, primarily a kidney, and thousands die each year before they are called.
The most ambitious attempt to date occurred in January, when doctors at the University of Maryland Medical Center transplanted a pig’s heart into a 57-year-old man. David Bennett survived for two months, demonstrating that a xenograft is at the very least possible.
However, tests had failed to detect the presence of an animal virus in the organ. It is not yet known whether this played a role in Mr Bennett’s heart failure, the researchers recently wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Another NYU Langone physician, Dr. Robert Montgomery, explained that careful experiments on deceased patients are key to identifying the best methods.
in a context where the patient’s life is not in danger.
It’s not once and that’s ithe said.
We have years to learn what is important and what is not.