Xenotransplant, Drawing. (Photo By BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Photo by: BSIP


The First Person to Receive a Heart Transplant from a Pig Survived 2 Months

After the U.S. man received the first successful transplant of its kind, a Maryland hospital reported his death today.

March 09, 2022

Two months after the groundbreaking surgery, David Bennett, the first person to receive a heart transplant from a pig has died.

Doctors at the University of Maryland Medical Center did not give Bennett’s exact cause of death– only that his condition had begun deteriorating several days before his passing.

“We are devastated by the loss of Mr. Bennett. He proved to be a brave and noble patient who fought all the way to the end,” Dr. Bartley Griffith, who performed the surgery, said in a statement.

For decades, doctors have studied the possibility of using animal organs for life-saving transplants in humans. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allowed for the Maryland procedure under “compassionate use” for emergency situations.

Bennett was a candidate for this pioneering surgery because he otherwise faced certain death. The 57-year-old had heart failure and was on life support, making him ineligible for a human heart transplant.

The need for organs is enormous. More than 106,000 people are waiting for an organ on the national list, and thousands on the waitlist die every year before ever receiving an organ. Thousands more are ineligible from being added to the waitlist– like Mr. Bennett– who are considered too much of a long shot.

Previous attempts at xenotransplantation have failed rapidly when the patients’ bodies rejected the nonhuman organ. This time, scientists used a genetically modified pig, removing the pig genes that trigger the host body’s rejection of the organ. In their place, the team added human genes to help the body accept the pig’s heart.



To produce the genetically-modified pigs' hearts, scientists tried to engineer human 'identity' tags onto the surface of the pig organs to 'fool' the immune system into accepting the organs. They did this by inserting human genes into the genetic material of pig embryos.

Photo by: Science & Society Picture Library

Science & Society Picture Library

To produce the genetically-modified pigs' hearts, scientists tried to engineer human 'identity' tags onto the surface of the pig organs to 'fool' the immune system into accepting the organs. They did this by inserting human genes into the genetic material of pig embryos.

“It was an incredible feat that [Mr. Bennett] was kept alive for two months and was able to enjoy his family," said Dr. Robert Montgomery, a transplant surgeon at NYU Langone Health.

Bennett is the longest surviving recipient of xenotransplantation. The last significant milestone of surgery of this kind was in 1984 when a dying infant survived 21 days with a baboon's heart.

Bennett knew the risks of the surgery, and his son praised the hospital, saying “We are grateful for every innovative moment, every crazy dream, every sleepless night that went into this historic effort… We hope this story can be the beginning of hope and not the end.”

Transplant experts praised the landmark experiment. The team will continue to strive to figure out how animal organs can be used to save human lives.

Next Up

The End of the World is NOT Sunday

The Mayan calendar predicted the end of the world in 2012, but we’re still here. Others are claiming that the Mayan calendar actually predicted the end of the world for June 21, 2020, so we shall see? Probably not.

Everybody is Equal in the Equinox

Here comes the sun! At least, if you live in the northern hemisphere of the Earth.

The Summer Solstice is Upon Us

Dr. Jeff Hall at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona clues us in on some awesome facts about Summer Solstice.

Earth Day: The Perspective from Space

Greetings Earthlings! Astronomers from Lowell Observatory discuss the iconic Pale Blue Dot shot of the Earth and other Earth-like planets.

Earth Observation: Tackling the Climate Crisis through Data

Earth observation data is one of the best ways to study and reverse climate change.

Geothermal Power: Heat and Light from Below the Earth

Is geothermal power the best chance to lasting and sustainable power for generations?

Using What We Know to Predict the Next Pandemic

How can we predict another pandemic? Researchers are utilizing what we have learned from COVID-19 to get in front of the potential pandemics of the future.

Sound of the Year: Awards Created to Recognize Chimes of History

From voices raised in protest for change to the final tender words uttered to a dying loved one, sound and hearing are primal in connecting humans to the world. Now those moments are being acknowledged in an annual award for the Sound of the Year, created to honor audible history and the art of noise.

The First All-Female Spacewalk in NASA’s 61-Year History is Happening

"A-team" astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir are set to make history in the first all-female spacewalk.

The Last Supermoon of the Year and How to See It

The Super Flower Moon of May is this year's last supermoon, when the Moon appears slightly larger and brighter in the sky because it is somewhat closer to Earth. Here's everything you need to know and how to watch it from home.