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UCSD experts: Pig-to-human heart transplant could be a game-changer

Pig Heart Transplant
Posted at 11:02 PM, Jan 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-12 02:06:13-05

SAN DIEGO, Calif. (KGTV) — Imagine a farm full of animals with genetically modified organs.

That’s what Dr. Eric Adler, Director of UCSD's heart failure program, said could be the future after the University of Maryland completed a heart transplant using a pig’s heart on January 7.

“What they did in Maryland, which is unique is they didn't just take a regular pig heart. They made a pig heart, where they put in genes that are expressed in a human," he explained.

Dr. Adler said they changed at least 10 genes. He added the patient is just days out from the transplant and his heart is beating —while also using a pump.

“We'll know over the next several weeks to months— how the patient does. I want to see him walk me around leaving the hospital. As of yesterday, he was still on a heart pump," said Dr. Adler.

Lifesharing, a nonprofit that coordinates organ and tissue donation in San Diego and Imperial Counties said 1,936 people are on the transplant waiting list in the region.

Dr. Adler said in theory this could solve shortages of transplants— but says there is still a lot to work out.

“Is it safe? Is it safe short-term? Is it ethical? How do we do this in an ethical way? So, there's a lot of things that we as a society have to work out and think about what drugs do we need to use? Can we make it better, we might be able to even refine it so we make the organ-specific to the patient," he said.

Nonetheless, he said this is a big deal for the heart transplant community.

“This is like what we've been waiting you know, to see this happening now,” he expressed.