What’s next: The demand for organs is enormous, with nearly 107,000 people on the US transplant waiting list; 17 of them die every day, according to the federal Health Resources and Services Administration.
Initial results look promising for Bennett, who is expected to exit the cardiopulmonary bypass machine he relied on today (Jan. 11) to keep him alive. He will be monitored very closely for signs of rejection or infection over the coming days and weeks.
New frontier: While xenotransplantation, the process of transplanting animal organs or tissues into humans, has a long and often unsuccessful history, new gene-editing technologies are making it more practical. The genetically modified pig in last week’s surgery was supplied by Revivicor, one of several biotech companies working on developing pig organs for transplantation into humans.
Revivicor was also involved in the successful transplant of a pig kidney into a human patient last October, which was a major milestone in demonstrating the feasibility of its techniques. In addition to Revivicor, Harvard scientist George Church co-founded the company eGensisis, which works to use CRISPR gene editing to make animal organs useful for human transplants, although its ambitious planned timeframe has gotten off track.