News of the first-of-its kind operation transplanting a genetically modified pig heart into a human was hailed as a medical breakthrough this week... by no one more than the recipient's son.
“This is groundbreaking, this is remarkable and frankly, this is a miracle.''
A team at the University of Maryland School of Medicine gave David Bennett Sr. the new heart... an intense experience, described his son, David Bennett Jr.:
''He was in the operating room three days straight. He's got a lot of swelling throughout his body. But I know how strong my dad is and I know that his decision and desire to live and will, is greater than perhaps he even realizes.''
After being diagnosed with terminal heart disease, the pig-to-human heart transplant was 57-year-old Bennett Senior’s last option.
Three genes previously linked with organ rejection were "knocked out" of the donor pig, and six human genes linked with immune acceptance were inserted.
Junior told Reuters his dad has had some complications – like a collapsed lung at one point – but one of the nurses said he is doing better than some human-to-human heart transplant patients.
"He is very much alive and he’s talking to the nurses... (Flash) and he's already ready to get out of there. So it's very encouraging, his words and his responsiveness.''
About 110,000 Americans are currently waiting for an organ transplant, and more than 6,000 patients die each year before getting one, according to organdonor.gov.
But Bennett's doctor said the patient is not yet out of the woods: “Dr. Griffith's short-term goal is 10 days, if we can get outside of 10 days, that's another huge milestone for my dad's recovery.''
If Bennett’s surgery proves successful, scientists hope pig organs could help alleviate shortages of human donor organs.