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First-in-Human Porcine Heart Transplant Performed


Surgeons at the University of Maryland School of Medicine performed the first successful porcine (pig) to human heart transplant, a procedure referred to as “xenotransplantation.”  The patient, 57 year old David Bennett, was recovering and doing well three days after the procedure.  The surgical team continues to monitor Mr. Bennett’s condition.

According to Bartley P. Griffith MD, a member of the surgical team that performed the xenotransplantation:

This was a breakthrough surgery and brings us one step closer to solving the organ shortage crisis. There are simply not enough donor human hearts available to meet the long list of potential recipients.  We are proceeding cautiously, but we are also optimistic that this first-in-the-world surgery will provide an important new option for patients in the future.

According to, “about 110,000 Americans are currently waiting for an organ transplant, and more than 6,000 patients die each year before getting one.”

The surgical team spent years refining the technique in primate studies, waiting until they saw good survival over 9-12 months without organ rejection and low infection incidence before applying for the compassionate use exemption from the FDA that allowed Mr. Bennett to receive the xenotransplantation, according to surgical team member Christine Lau MD.

The donor heart was provided by Revivicor (acquired by United Therapeutics in 2011).  Ten genes in the donor heart were genetically modified, primarily to reduce the chance that Mr. Bennett’s body would reject the donor organ.

This is the second xenotransplanted organ provided by Revivicor in the last six months.  In October 2021, surgeons at New York University attached Revivicor’s genetically modified porcine kidney to the blood vessels of a brain dead patient on life support without any signs of rejection for over two days.  The xenotransplanted kidney functioned normally during that time period.

According to the University of Maryland School of Medicine’s press release, xenotransplants were first tried in the 1980s.  However, they fell out of favor after a xenotransplantation of a baboon heart into an infant in California failed due to the immune system’s rejection of a foreign heart.  In contrast, xenograft porcine heart valves have been used as valve replacements in humans for over 50 years, and xenograft valve replacements are still in use today.

This video includes more information about Mr. Bennett’s procedure and is available from the University of Maryland School of Medicine.


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Brandon Smith

Brandon Smith is a partner in our Orange County office. His practice is focused on litigation with an emphasis on patent, trademark, copyright, trade secret, and data privacy matters. His practice has included numerous district court cases across the country and multiple proceedings before the U.S. International Trade Commission.

In addition to his litigation experience with Knobbe Martens, Mr. Smith has served as a Deputy District Attorney with the Orange County District Attorney’s Office through the Trial Attorney Partnership program where he successfully prosecuted criminal matters, including a jury trial, as a first chair trial attorney.

Mr. Smith earned his Bachelor's of Science in Biomedical Engineering at California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo. Mr. Smith received his J.D. from the University of San Diego School of Law where he was Editor-in-Chief of Volume 52 of the San Diego Law Review.

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