A month after receiving a groundbreaking pig heart transplant, Maryland resident Lawrence Faucette, who was ineligible for a traditional heart transplant due to heart failure, is making strides in his recovery. Doctors at the University of Maryland School of Medicine performed the experimental surgery, offering Faucette a chance at life.
In a recently released hospital video, physical therapist Chris Wells can be seen encouraging Faucette in his recovery efforts. The footage shows the 58-year-old patient undergoing a pedaling exercise to regain strength, with Faucette displaying determination and resilience.
Notably, this is the second attempt at a pig-to-human heart transplant, with the first ending in tragedy when the recipient, David Bennett, survived only two months. Some signs of a pig virus were found in his transplanted heart. Following lessons from this initial experiment, the Maryland medical team made adjustments for the second procedure, including enhanced virus testing.
Historically, animal-to-human organ transplants, known as xenotransplants, have faced difficulties due to immediate immune system rejection. However, scientists are now genetically modifying pigs to make their organs more human-like in a renewed effort to overcome this challenge.
According to Faucette’s doctors, there have been no signs of rejection in his pig heart, and it is functioning independently. Physical therapists are working with him to help him regain the strength necessary for walking.
Xenotransplants hold promise for addressing the critical shortage of human organ donations, with over 100,000 people in the United States currently on transplant waiting lists, the majority of whom need kidneys. Several scientific teams have conducted tests involving pig kidneys and hearts in monkeys and human bodies donated for research, aiming to gather sufficient data for the Food and Drug Administration to consider formal xenotransplant studies.