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Man who got heart transplant from genetically modified pig dies 2 months later

David Bennett, 57, had the first-of-its-kind procedure in January.

A man who received a first-of-its-kind heart transplant from a genetically modified pig died Tuesday, two months after the groundbreaking procedure.

The cause of David Bennett’s death wasn't immediately disclosed, and doctors at the University of Maryland Medical Center didn't say whether it was connected to any complications from the transplant.

In a statement Wednesday, the hospital said Bennett, 57, “began deteriorating several days ago.”

“After it became clear that he would not recover, he was given compassionate palliative care,” the hospital said. “He was able to communicate with his family during his final hours.”

Bennett’s son, David Bennett Jr., thanked his father's doctors in a statement he released through the hospital.

"Their exhaustive efforts and energy, paired with my dad’s insatiable will to live, created a hopeful environment during an uphill climb," he said.

"Up until the end, my father wanted to continue fighting to preserve his life and spend more time with his beloved family, including his two sisters, his two children, and his five grandchildren, and his cherished dog Lucky. We were able to spend some precious weeks together while he recovered from the transplant surgery, weeks we would not have had without this miraculous effort."

David Bennett Sr., third from left, surrounded by family members in 2019.
David Bennett Sr., third from left, surrounded by family members in 2019. Byron Dillard via AP

Bennett’s transplant was a milestone in the field of xenotransplantation, the sourcing of animal organs to address the human organ supply crisis.

Since then, doctors have implanted kidneys from a gene-edited pig into a brain-dead patient at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

“Mr. Bennett became known by millions of people around the world for his courage and steadfast will to live,” Dr. Bartley P. Griffith, who performed the operation, said in a statement Wednesday. He added that, “as with any first-in-the-world transplant surgery, this one led to valuable insights that will hopefully inform transplant surgeons to improve outcomes and potentially provide lifesaving benefits to future patients.”

The Food and Drug Administration gave emergency authorization on New Year’s Eve for Bennett to receive the genetically modified pig heart. The surgery was completed Jan. 7.

Before the transplant, Bennett had been hospitalized for six weeks with a life-threatening arrhythmia and had been connected to a heart-lung bypass machine.