The second patient to receive a pig heart in place of his own has died. He lived just six weeks, two weeks less than the first recipient.
Lawrence Faucette, 58, had received a heart from a gene-edited pig on Sept. 20 after his own heart began to fail. He was not a candidate for a human heart transplant because his medical condition was so severe.
Faucette, a Navy veteran and father of two, seemed to be recovering well from the transplant at the University of Maryland Medical Center, progressing in physical therapy and playing cards with his wife, Ann.
In recent days, however, his body began showing signs of rejecting the new organ, and he died Monday.
Dr. Bartley Griffith, the surgeon who performed the transplant, said in a statement that he was saddened by Faucette’s death.
“Mr. Faucette’s last wish was for us to make the most of what we have learned from our experience, so others may be guaranteed a chance for a new heart when a human organ is unavailable. He then told the team of doctors and nurses who gathered around him that he loved us. We will miss him tremendously.”
Dr. Muhammad Mohiuddin, who leads the animal-to-human transplant program at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, described Faucette as “a scientist who not only read and interpreted his own biopsies but who understood the important contribution he was making in advancing this field.”
Researchers at the University of Maryland and elsewhere have been working toward using pig organs in people to help relieve the shortage of human organs. Roughly 100,000 Americans are on an organ transplant waitlist; most are awaiting a kidney. Many more never make the list at all because, like Faucette, they are too sick to qualify.
Mohiuddin said his team intends to carefully analyze the factors that led to Faucette’s death to identify problems that might be prevented in future transplants.
The first patient, David Bennett Sr., received a pig heart at the University of Maryland in January 2022 and died two months later. Analysis suggested his weak condition before the transplant contributed to his death. A pig virus was detected in the heart, though it wasn’t clear whether that contributed to his death.
The heart given to Faucette was more carefully screened to ensure it was clear of the virus.
Faucette was in end-stage heart failure when he arrived at the University of Maryland Medical Center on Sept. 14. The next day, the Food and Drug Administration gave the hospital emergency authorization to do the transplant.
Shortly before the surgery, his heart stopped and required resuscitation. The transplanted heart appeared to perform well with no evidence of rejection for the first month. With any transplanted organ, rejection is the greatest survival risk.
Ann Faucette said her husband was grateful for the extra time he received and the contribution he was able to make to the field of xenotransplantation, which he hoped would help others in need of an organ transplant.
“He knew his time with us was short, and this was his last chance to do for others,” she said in a statement. “He never imagined he would survive as long as he did, or provide as much data to the xenotransplant program. … We look forward to advancement and success in the field of xenotransplantation.”
Contact Karen Weintraub at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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