As things happen in fairy tales, the year 2022 also brings a ‘one-bad-news-and-one-good-news’ moment. Incidentally, both pieces of news belong to the medical sector.
First the bad news: the Omicron variant is spreading like jungle fire. Medical scientists say the only thing they know about the treacherous variant is that they do not know enough about the variant. The part of the problem is that Omicron infection transmits to others, regardless of symptoms and vaccination status. The only way to avoid the infection is to follow SOPs and get a booster dose, which our government has been providing to all those above 18, free of cost.
Now, the good news.
A team of doctors at the University of Maryland Medical Center in the US has made it possible for a human to live on a pig’s heart. In the medical miracle, the team, which also had a Pakistani-American doctor, transplanted a genetically modified pig’s heart into a patient named David Bennett, 57, who allowed the doctor to go ahead with the medical-first procedure. Of course, the patient had lost all medically available options, and it was a last-ditch effort by him to try the pig heart to see another day. He gambled, while the doctors did not disappoint him either and after a seven-hour transplant procedure, he regained senses to hear ‘hello’ from the doctors, standing anxious around him.
Now, it has almost been a week that Bennett is doing well, though he is still under observation in the hospital. He has yet to speak to the media and doctors are counting every passing moment cautiously. We wish him a speedy recovery so that in the future the transplant of genetically modified animal organs into the human body becomes a routine matter. This will save precious lives and meet the shortage of human organs donated for transplant.
We, in Pakistan, greeted the news, not because of the medical miracle, but for the inclusion of the Pakistani-American doctor.
Dr. Mohammad Mohiuddin, MD, is scientific and programme director of the Cardiac Xenotransplantation Programme at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. Born in Karachi, and graduating from the Dow Medical College, Dr. Mohiuddin made Pakistan proud by playing a leading role in the transplant procedure of the animal organ in the human body. In the 1990s, he moved to the US and won a fellowship in transplantation biology at the University of Pennsylvania. He is a recipient of a fellowship in bone marrow transplantation at the Institute of Cellular Therapeutics, Drexel University.
So far, we have hailed the subject – David Bennet – whose permission made possible the entrance of a pig’s heart to the human body.
We have hailed the wonderful team of the University of Maryland Medical Center in the US that made us celebrate the occasion. Not to mention our own Dr. Mohammad Mohiuddin sahib.
So, what has been left out so far?
It is the donor, the very pig, whose heart made the miracle happen.
The nameless pig, which donated its heart, was developed by firm Revivicor. The animal, which often comes with four-letter words, let humans genetically modify its heart 10 times. The big-hearted pig is not alive to see the celebratory mode of the world, but its heart will keep on receiving gratefulness with every breath of David Bennet.
What the future holds for David Bennett cannot be predicted at this moment, but we know that the world full of pigheaded people, will be a good place with ‘pighearted’ people.