Second pig heart transplant patient dies in Maryland weeks after surgery

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Lawrence Faucette died of heart failure and was ineligible for a human heart transplant. He knew that the last chance he had to extend his life was to get a heart transplanted from a pig. The 58-year-old man said in September from his hospital bed in Baltimore that he was “hoping for the best,” but understood he was the second person in the world to undergo the procedure — and the highly experimental surgery did not guarantee he would have more time with his wife and two sons.

“We’re going to do our best,” he said in a video from the University of Maryland School of Medicine. ‘At least now I have hope. And now I have a chance.”

Faucette died Monday, nearly six weeks after surgery, becoming the second patient to die after receiving a genetically modified pig heart, medical school officials announced Tuesday.

While Faucette had shown significant progress in the weeks following his September 20 surgery at the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) in Baltimore, the Maryland man’s new heart had shown “early signs of rejection” in recent days, which ” most A significant challenge with traditional transplants that also involve human organs,” the medical school said in a press release.

“We mourn the loss of Mr. Faucette, a remarkable patient, scientist, Navy veteran and family man who simply wanted to spend more time with his loving wife, sons and family,” said Bartley P. Griffith, the surgeon. who performed the pig heart transplant at the Baltimore Medical Center.

Ann Faucette, his wife, said in a statement that her husband had “an open mind and complete confidence” in the doctors who handled the procedure.

“He knew his time with us was short, and this was his last chance to do something for others,” she said. “He never thought he would survive as long as he did, or provide as much data to the xenotransplant program. He was a man who always thought of others, especially myself and his two sons.”

The announcement of Lawrence Faucette’s death comes about 19 months after David Bennett Sr., the first person in the world to receive a genetically modified pig heart, died in March 2022. Bennett, 57, died two months after his groundbreaking surgery in January 2022. Bennett developed multiple complications according to UMMC, which also performed his surgery. Traces of a virus that infects pigs were also found in his new heart.

Patient who received a genetically modified pig heart has died, the hospital says

Faucette’s death is another setback for the accelerating field of xenotransplantation — the process of implanting organs from one species into another. Doctors hope that using organs from genetically modified animals can address the shortage of organs available for transplant. There are more than 100,000 patients on the national transplant waiting list, and an average of 17 die every day while waiting for donor organs.

Recent developments, such as the operations involving Faucette and Bennett, have been made possible by new technologies. This includes CRISPR, the gene-editing tool that was awarded the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. The organs are modified to make them less foreign to the human recipient, reducing the chance that they will be rejected.

But attempts at animal-to-human organ transplants have failed repeatedly for decades, often because people’s immune systems immediately destroy the foreign tissue introduced into their bodies, according to the Associated Press.

Faucette, of Frederick, Maryland, said he was in end-stage heart failure when he was admitted to UMMC on September 14. His heart stopped shortly before the operation and he had to be resuscitated, he said.

“We’re now moving on to my only real hope left, which is to go with the pig heart,” Faucette said.

Ann Faucette said in September that she had “no expectations, other than hoping for more time together.”

“That can be as simple as sitting on the porch and having coffee together — the simple things you don’t think about when everything is going well,” she said.

Lawrence Faucette thought it would be a miracle if he could go home after the operation. The next miracle, he said, would be that I would live a month, six months, a year: “I will take whatever I can get at that time.”

A month after the operation, Faucette’s doctors said in October that the pig’s heart showed no signs of rejection. Officials said Faucette was able to stay at the hospital during his recovery, spend time with his family and play cards with his wife.

But Faucette’s condition changed in late October when his body began rejecting the pig’s heart. Days later he was dead.

His medical team extended their condolences to his family and thanked him for the valuable insight he had given them in advancing the study of xenotransplantations.

“Mr. Faucette’s dying wish was that we make the most of what we learned from our experience so that others are guaranteed a chance at a new heart if a human organ is not available,” Griffith said. “He then told the team from doctors and nurses who gathered around him to say he loved us. We will miss him immensely.”

Muhammad M. Mohiuddin, professor of surgery and scientific program director of the cardiac xenotransplantation program at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, added that Faucette “not only read and interpreted his own biopsies, but he also understood the important contribution he made to this to advance the field.”

“As with the first patient, David Bennett Sr., we plan to conduct a comprehensive analysis to identify factors that can be prevented in future transplants; This will allow us to continue to make progress and inform our colleagues in the field about our experiences,” said Mohiuddin.

Until the end, Faucette thought of others, his wife said. On his last night, Faucette worried about his sister and whether she had slept, his wife said.

“Larry’s family remains in awe of the man he was and the way he shaped our lives,” she said. “He should never be forgotten.”

Months before his death, Faucette reiterated that he went ahead with the pig heart transplant because he needed some time – every moment – with his family.

“I will fight with every breath I can to stay with all of them longer,” he said. “But realistically, this is still an early learning process, and I have to be prepared to accept whatever outcome.”

Frances Stead Sellers contributed to this report.

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