Behind the World's First Pig Heart Transplant - What Have We Learned?

The patient's life was at stake, his life was hanging by a thread, and a heart transplant seemed to be the only way around. Yet there was no donor heart available, the only way to preserve his life was to transplant a pig's heart. That would be an unprecedented surgery in the history of mankind. What's left to choose? A transplant or death? A tough decision.

This is not a fictional story you see in movies, this is a real story that happened recently. The news about the world's first pig heart transplant was trending on Google search. A 57-year-old American man named David Bennett was admitted to the University of Maryland Medical Center a few weeks ago because of severe arrhythmia, his life was in danger. Not only was he ineligible for an artificial heart, but he was also ineligible for the traditional heart transplant waiting list due to non-compliance, missed medical appointments, and discontinuation of prescription medications, making David Bennett seemingly ineligible for any chance of survival.

Bartley Griffith, a surgeon at the University of Maryland Medical Center, gave David Bennett a silver lining - a transplant of a genetically modified pig heart. Faced with the only chance to extend David's life, he decided to transplant a pig heart. On January 7, 2022 David Bennett successfully underwent a transgenic pig heart transplant and is doing well, the first pig heart transplant case in human history.

In this case, perhaps out of curiosity, the public focused on the fact that a human successfully transplanted a pig heart, but there is another important point of information David Bennett was on extracorporeal membrane lung oxygenation system ECMO (hereinafter referred to as ECMO) for 6 weeks prior to receiving the pig heart transplant to extend his life.

Behind the World's First Pig Heart Transplant - What Have We Learned?

Pig heart transplant surgery

When patients with acute heart failure or end-stage heart failure cannot wait for a donor heart, device therapy is the only way to extend the patient's life, and as with ECMO, which helped David Bennett's transition for 6 weeks so that the patient could wait for a heart transplant, we should see the important value of extending the patient's life through device therapy.

Large base of heart failure patients with complex clinical conditions

There is no one for all product for different devices at different stages of the disease.

In 2019, the number of heart failure patients worldwide will reach 29.7 million, and is expected to further increase to 38.7 million in 2030. The number of people with heart failure in China in 2021 will be about 13.7 million, with 7.8 million emergency admissions for recurrent multiple episodes and about 600,000 patients with end-stage heart failure.

In clinical practice, there is no single product in the field of circulatory support for heart failure to meet all patient needs. Depending on the patient's circulatory flow and support time, different types of artificial hearts are selected in the clinic to treat each patient's comprehensive condition and clinical needs, including comprehensive solutions such as interventional, extracorporeal, and implantable artificial hearts. When the patient is combined with other organ failure, other extracorporeal life support devices (ExtracorporealLife SupportECLS), such as extracorporeal membrane lung (ECMO), artificial kidney, etc., also need to be applied at the same time.

"Large platform" and "multiple product lines" are the optimal solution

Unlike the "single product" and "single pipeline" business development logic, magAssist has the characteristics of "large platform" and "multiple pipelines", and through its own technology accumulation, it has launched independent research and development of multiple product lines, hoping to create the most valuable and suitable high-end medical device products for Chinese people from the actual clinical needs of China.

magAssist has developed its first high technology barrier Class III active product, the extracorporeal magnetically levitated ventricular assist device, from scratch to meet clinical needs, and has helped many patients. To treat patients with respiratory failure or emergency transport needs, magAssist has developed a new generation of Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation System (ECMO) that is highly portable, conducive to first-line treatment scenarios, and portable for transport, based on its successful clinical testing of the first extracorporeal magnetically levitated ventricular assist device technology in China. The successful development of its magnetically levitated pump brings better hemocompatibility to the entire ECMO system. The ECMO product is currently in preclinical development.

For patients requiring heart transplantation, the shortage of donor hearts and damage caused by cold ischemic preservation of the donor heart are major bottlenecks. The warm blood transfer platform for isolated hearts developed by magAssist solves the current pain point of cold ischemia protection of donor hearts. Donor hearts connected to the warm blood transfer device can be transported under the supply of oxygenated blood, which significantly reduces the degree of heart damage while the preservation time is expected to exceed 12 hours, achieving full coverage of domestic transportation and expanding the donor heart pool. At the same time, the isolated Organ Care System can monitor the heart condition in real-time, helping doctors to better assess the heart health and bring more accurate prognosis for patients.

Behind the World's First Pig Heart Transplant - What Have We Learned?

magAssist's Organ Care System 

In 2021, magAssist achieved the first animal waste heart warm blood transfer in China. After the sheep's heart was stopped, the team repaired and resuscitated the heart through in vitro autologous blood perfusion. With all physiological indicators performing normally, the resuscitated heart ran stably for 45 hours and was transported across 150 km from Taizhou to Suzhou.

Coming back to the case of David Bennett, he would not have made it through that 6 months of waiting period if it were not for the help of an extracorporeal life support device. This testimonial experience has shed two great insights. First off, life support devices should have clinical practicality. That is, it should be applicable and easy to use in a real clinical setting. Second off, it should minimize risk to the patient. magAssist has committed to meeting these standards when developing products. This has manifested itself in our product line - the extracorporeal magnetically levitated ventricular assist device, the new generation of extracorporeal membrane lung oxygenation system (ECMO) and the warm blood transfer platform for isolated hearts. magAssist has taken into account modern clinical application scenarios, which can easily adapt to complex clinical environments and significantly reduce the risk of use.  

What was once a science fiction story is now becoming a reality step by step. What was once a science fiction imagination has become a technology that turns life.

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