The man who replaced the pig’s heart died of the swine virus, the surgeon said Maryland

A 57-year-old patient who survived two months after a pig heart transplant operation was reported last month by his transplant surgeon.

In January, a heart surgeon, David Bennett, underwent a highly experimental operation by doctors at the University of Maryland Medical Center to replace a genetically modified pig’s heart.

In March, Bennett died shortly after surgery. The hospital said his condition had worsened within days, but did not give an exact cause of death.

Last month, Bennett’s transplant surgeon, Bartley Griffith, discovered that the pig’s heart had contracted a swine virus called swine cytomegalovirus, which could have been the cause of Bennett’s death. In a webinar held by the American Transplant Society on April 20, the Griffith described the virus and the efforts of doctors to treat it, the MIT Technology Review said for the first time on Wednesday.

“We’re starting to know why he passed,” Griffith said.[the virus] Maybe it was all an actor or an actor. ”

According to experts, transplantation was a “basic test of xenotransplantation,” a process of tissue transfer between different species. They believe the experiment may have gone off the rails as a result of a “weak error” because the pigs bred to provide the body must be free of viruses.

“If it’s an infection, we can prevent it in the future,” Griffith said during the webinar.

The greatest difficulty in transplanting organs from animals to humans is the stability of the human immune system, as it can attack foreign cells in a process called rejection, eventually producing a response that destroys the transplanted organ or tissue.

As a result, companies have been biologically engineering pigs by removing and adding various genes to help hide their tissues from possible immune attacks. The heart used in Bennett’s work was obtained from a pig by the biotechnology company Revivicor, which made 10 gene modifications.

Despite fears that xenotransplantation could lead to a pandemic if the virus adapts to the human body and spreads to others, experts believe that Bennett’s particular type of virus in a donor heart is incapable of infecting human cells.

Jay Fishman, a transplant infection specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital, said there was “no real threat to humans” from spreading it. On the contrary, fear stems from the ability of swine cytomegalovirus to provoke reactions that can destroy not only the body but also the patient.

Experts are reluctant to link Bennett’s death entirely to the virus. According to Joachim Denner, a researcher at the Institute of Virology at the Free University of Berlin, “This patient was very, very, very ill. Remember … The virus may have contributed, but that’s not the only reason. “

Two years ago, Denner conducted a study in which researchers reported that the heart of a pig transplanted into a baboon would last only a few weeks if they had swine cytomegalovirus. On the other hand, uninfected hearts could survive for more than six months.

Shortly after Bennett’s operation, Griffith and his team routinely monitored his recovery through various blood tests. In one analysis, doctors examined Bennett’s blood for traces of various viruses and bacteria and found “a little effort” to detect the presence of swine cytomegalovirus. However, because of its low level, doctors thought that it might be a mistake.

Griffith also had to undergo a special blood test for about 10 days, so doctors were unable to detect the rapid spread of the virus. As a result, this Griffith could now trigger a reaction that he believes is an “explosion of cytokines,” a storm of exaggerated immune responses that could cause serious problems.

On day 43 of the experiment, doctors determined that Bennett was breathing deeply and warming to the touch. “He looked really funny. Something happened to him. He looked infected,” Griffith said, adding that he was “distracted and stopped talking to us.”

In an effort to control Bennett’s infection and monitor his immune system, doctors gave him intravenous immunoglobulin, as well as cidofovir, which is sometimes used in patients with AIDS. Bennett showed signs of recovery after 24 hours, and his condition worsened again.

“I personally suspect that her capillary flow occurred in response to her inflammatory rupture, which filled her heart with tumors, the tumor turned into fibrous tissue, and she suffered severe and irreversible diastolic heart failure,” Griffith told the webinar.

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