Genetically modified pig heart took longer than normal to beat for human recipient: scientists

Genetically modified pig heart took longer than normal to beat for human recipient: scientists
A 57-year-old man received the first gene-edited pig heart transplant in an experimental surgery in January 2022. Photo: iStock
A 57-year-old man received the first gene-edited pig heart transplant in an experimental surgery in January 2022. Photo: iStock

There was a problem in the highly publicized pig-to-human heart transplant earlier this year: The genetically modified pig heart took longer to generate a heartbeat than either pig or human hearts, the researchers said. The 57-year-old recipient lived 61 days after the transplant in January.

The man received the first gene-edited pig heart transplant in surgery in January 2022.

The changes in the transplanted pig heart reduced the electrical signal from the top of the heart to the bottom, according to findings presented at the American Heart Association meeting. The results have not yet been published.


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“We have to figure out what that means and how this would affect xenotransplantation after many months and years,” said Timm Dickfeld, a professor of medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore. Down to Earth.

Xenotransplantation is the process of transplanting organs from one species to another.

The electrical stimulus originates in a specific part of the heart muscle called the sinus node. From there, it travels on a particular path to the lower chambers of the heart and through the lower chambers to complete one cycle of heartbeats.


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These electrical signals feed the contraction and relaxation of the heartallowing blood to pump.

The researchers used an electrocardiogram (ECG) to record the electrical signals of the heart. They collected ECG data from the patient, usually once a day after the transplant.

“We started out hoping that the xenograft might behave in the same way that pig hearts normally behave,” Dickfeld explained.

The research team found that the ECG parameters of the pig heart after being transplanted into a human were different from native pig hearts. Instead, the ECG parameters of the transplanted pig heart were more spread out than those of a human heart, in which electrical signals travel even more slowly.

ECG parameters often ranged beyond what was considered normal in a human heart. inhumans, longer ECG parameters signal heart diseasethe researchers explained.

Dickfeldand and his colleagues cannot yet explain this unusual behavior. But they have some theories. They suspect that the lack of connection between the pig’s heart and the body could be at play. Consequently, the pig’s body is deprived of inputs from the brain.

Another reason could be that the patient was taking certain medications to prevent rejection or infection. “Some of these drugs are very new and very little is known about their possible effects on ECG criteria,” the expert said.

Furthermore, the researchers do not believe that abnormal ECG parameters lead to the death of the patient.

“The patient’s parameters remained stable or even improved in the last part of the follow-up. So, we didn’t see any potentially harmful consequences,” she explained.

“It will be extremely interesting to understand the factors that affect changes in parameters,” Paul J Wang, editor-in-chief of the Journal of the American Heart Association, said in a statement.

A more detailed analysis of the electrocardiogram can also provide unique information, he explained.




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