Surgeons at NYU Langone transplanted pig hearts into two brain-dead humans

Earlier this summer, NYU Langone doctors successfully transplanted pig hearts into two recently deceased people. The medical team performed the procedures on June 16 and July 6 using special pig hearts that were genetically modified to be more acceptable for transplantation into a human body. Both bodies were donated by recently deceased people and hooked up to a ventilator so the effectiveness of the pig hearts could be measured more accurately.

The study comes as the field of xenotransplantation — or the process of transferring organs from one species to another — comes under increased scrutiny. The first person to have a pig heart transplant this year, which scientists believe was a side effect of a drug used to prevent rejection. The heart also contained DNA with a swine virus. Since the incident, the medical community has called for more robust research on the subject, as well as better safety protocols. Meanwhile, the FDA is considering approving clinical trials of pig heart transplantation in humans Wall Street Journal reported last month.

Both subjects – a 72-year-old Navy veteran and a 64-year-old retired teacher from New York City – were monitored for three days before being taken off life support. Neither heart required outside assistance and functioned normally, which the researchers see as a promising sign for future research. Despite the NYU experiment’s positive result, surgeons cautioned that much more research would be needed before pig heart transplants could be a viable alternative for people with heart disease.

“This is not a one-off situation. This will take years of learning what is important and what isn’t important for this to work,” said Dr. NYU’s Robert Montgomery told the Associated Press.

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