Two patients receive pig hearts in the United States

The heart went out to Kelly, a Navy veteran who was declared brain dead after a car accident.

Photo: NYU Langone Health/Disclosure

The heart went out to Kelly, a Navy veteran who was declared brain dead after a car accident. (Photo: NYU Langone Health/Handout)

A surgical team has transplanted two genetically modified pig hearts into human cadavers as part of a scientific study. The announcement was made by researchers at NYU Langone Health in the United States this week.

The procedure was the first of its kind and represents a breakthrough in efforts to determine whether organs from non-human animals can be modified and used successfully in people who need transplants.

The 72-year-old recipient, Lawrence Kelly of Pennsylvania, was declared brain dead. The family donated the body for the study, which aimed to investigate how the modified pig heart works in the body of a deceased human.

After Kelly’s transplant in June, the research team repeated the procedure with another deceased recipient, Alva Capuano, 64, of New York, in early July.

These transplants followed a procedure performed by the University of Maryland in January from a pig’s heart into a living human. The receiver died in March.

Dr. Robert Montgomery, director of the NYU Transplant Institute, said the procedures allow for further study of the ability of recipients’ bodies to tolerate pig hearts.

“We can do much more frequent monitoring and really understand the biology and fill in all the unknowns,” he said.

He added that the study was unique because they tried to mimic real-world conditions, for example by not using experimental devices or drugs.

The researchers are working on releasing more details about the study.

“He came out a hero”

The researchers traveled out of state to obtain the heart, which featured genetic modifications aimed at various factors, such as modulating the growth of the organ and reducing the risk of the recipient’s immune system rejecting it.

The flight meant the team could replicate the conditions of a typical heart transplant, said Nader Moazami, surgical director of heart transplantation at NYU Langone Health.

“It was about an hour and 15 minute flight from New York, which is typical of the distance we take for clinical transplants,” said Moazami, who performed the transplant.

The heart went out to Kelly, a Navy veteran who was declared brain dead after a car accident. Kelly’s fiancee, Alice Michael, authorized the donation of the body for research. “He was a hero in life and a hero out of it,” Alice said.

After the transplant, the researchers carried out tests for three days to monitor the quality of the heart’s acceptance, while the recipient’s body was kept alive using machinery, including ventilation.

“No signs of early rejection were observed and the heart functioned normally with standard post-transplant medications and without additional mechanical support,” the medical center said in a news release.