clinical NEWS

January 14, 2O22

Genetically-Modified Pig Heart Successfully Transplanted to Live Human

Image from University of Maryland School of Medicine

The University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) in Baltimore, USA has announced the first-in-the-world successful transplant of a genetically-modified pig heart to a 57-year-old patient who has end-stage heart disease. (1)

Three genes associated with antibody reaction were deleted from the pig heart, and replaced by six human genes associated with compatibility to the immune system. Another gene which triggers excessive tissue growth was also deleted. The patient is doing well 3 days after the surgery demonstrating how a genetically modified animal heart can function inside a human body without immediate rejection by the body.

The patient, David Bennett, has been connected to an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) device for weeks. Since he was not eligible for standard heart transplants nor for any ventricular assist device, the only treatment option available was this experimental xenotransplantation (tissue transplantation from different species) surgery.

The genetically modified pig was provided by Revivicor and the surgical team who performed the transplant surgery was led by Dr. Bartley Griffith and Dr. Muhammad Mohiuddin. Aside from standard immunosuppressants, an experimental anti-rejection drug from Kiniksa Pharmaceuticals was also used to prevent transplant rejection.  

The patient will be carefully monitored over the next weeks but the transplant team is hopeful that this breakthrough surgery will be able to provide a new option for other patients in need of organ transplants. Thousands of patients are on transplant waiting lists because there are not enough organs available to meet the demand. In 2020, there were 106,670 patients on the US national transplant waiting list, and the US Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) estimates that 17 people die every day while waiting for an available organ. (2)

Just like how the development of the heart-lung machine in the 1950’s propelled innovation for modern cardiac surgery, it is hoped that this historic procedure can also advance the field of xenotransplantation and save the lives of thousands of patients around the world.


1.     University of Maryland Medical Center. (2022, January 10). First-of-Its-Kind Transplant at the University of Maryland Medical Center Was Patient’s Only Option for Survival after Being Deemed Ineligible for Traditional Transplant[Press release].

2.     Organ Donation Statistics | (2021b, October 1). Health Resources & Services Administration Organdonor.Gov. Retrieved January 12, 2022, from

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