A preventable an infection by a porcine virus might need contributed to the demise of the primary affected person to have a coronary heart transplant with a pig organ, MIT Expertise Assessment reported this week.
David Bennett Sr, who had extreme coronary heart illness, obtained a genetically modified pig coronary heart in early January of this 12 months — a serious milestone in animal-to-human transplants, or xenotransplantation. He died in March. Initially, the hospital the place the process was carried out mentioned that the reason for demise was unknown.
However final month, Bennett’s transplant surgeon mentioned in a webinar that the center was contaminated with porcine cytomegalovirus, a virus that doesn’t infect human cells however can harm the organ. Virus-free hearts transplanted into baboons survived for much longer than virus-infected hearts, in line with a German research.
Bennett obtained a coronary heart from biotechnology firm Revivicor, which produces genetically modified pigs. They’re purported to be freed from viruses, however this specific virus might be arduous to detect, Joachim Denner, a virologist on the Free College of Berlin, informed MIT Expertise Assessment. The corporate declined to remark to MIT Expertise Assessment in regards to the coronary heart and the virus.
It’s nonetheless unclear how massive of a task the virus performed in Bennett’s demise. But when he died due to the virus — and never as a result of his physique rejected the organ — teams engaged on xenotransplantation probably received’t should rethink their general technique. “If this was an an infection, we will probably stop it sooner or later,” Bartley Griffith, the transplant surgeon, mentioned throughout his presentation.