Doctors Successfully Transplant Pig Hearts Into ‘Brain-Dead’ Patients

(NYU Langone Health)

Dylan Housman Deputy News Editor
Font Size:

Scientists at NYU Langone Health successfully transplanted genetically modified pig hearts into “brain-dead” patients, the organization announced Tuesday.

Lawrence Kelly, 72, and Alva Capuano, 64, both recently deceased, were declared brain-dead and kept alive on ventilators before they passed, according to The Wall Street Journal. Researchers transplanted the pig hearts into them in June and July, and both bodies accepted the transplant and maintained normal heart function for three days following the procedures, NYU Langone said.

Both individuals suffered heart attacks, and their families agreed to donate their bodies to science, according to The WSJ. Both hearts functioned without additional mechanical support after the procedures. Doctors declare an individual “brain-dead” when brain function is permanently ceased, but the heart and lungs can still operate with medical intervention.

The purpose of the procedures was to gather more information about the function of pig hearts after a transplant, as well as to implement new strategies for detecting pig viruses in transplanted organs. In March, a Maryland man who received a pig heart transplant in January died after it was discovered the heart was infected by a virus that had gone undetected. (RELATED: Groundbreaking Cancer Treatment Produces Remission In Every Patient In Trial)

Scientists are increasingly exploring options for xenotransplantation, or the transplant of animal organs into humans, due to a serious shortage in human organs being donated. An average of 17 people die each day in the U.S. waiting for an organ transplant, according to government data.