A terminally ill man has been given the chance of life after his own diseased heart was replaced by a genetically-modified pig's heart.

In a medical first, doctors in Maryland transplanted the animal's organ into 57-year-old David Bennett and said on Monday that he is doing well three days after the experimental surgery.

It is too early to know if the operation will work but marks a step in the decades-long search by scientists to use animal organs for life-saving transplants.

Doctors at the University of Maryland Medical Centre said the transplant showed that a genetically-modified heart from a pig can be used in the human body without immediately being rejected.

"It was either die or do this transplant," Mr Bennett explained a day before the surgery.

I want to live.

I know it's a shot in the dark, but it ’ s my last choice," Mr Bennett said of the procedure in a statement.

His son David Bennett Jr said : "He realises the magnitude of what was done, and he really realises the importance of it.

"He could not live, or he could last a day, or he could last a couple of days.

I mean, we 're in the unknown at this point."

With a shortage of human organs for transplant, animal alternatives have long been the subject of intense research.

last year, there were just over 3,800 heart transplants in the us, a record number, according to the united network for organ sharing ( unos ).

"If this works, there will be an endless supply of these organs for patients who are suffering," said Dr Muhammad Mohiuddin, scientific director of the university's animal-to-human transplant program.

notably, in 1984, baby fae, a dying infant, lived 21 days with a baboon heart.

The surgeons in Maryland used a heart from a pig that had undergone gene editing to remove a chemical in its cells that's responsible for the organ rejection.

The UNOS's chief medical officer, Dr David Klassen, described the transplant as a "watershed event", but warned that it is only a first, tentative step into exploring the animal-to-human organ transplants.

the food and drug administration, which oversees xenotransplantation experiments, allowed the surgery under "compassionate use" emergency authorisation, which is made available when a patient has no other options.

In September 2021, scientists in New York suggested that gene-edited pigs might offer promise for animal-to-human transplants after they temporarily attached a pig's kidney to a dead human body and watched it work.

According to Dr Robert Montgomery, who led the New York experiment, the heart transplant is "a truly remarkable breakthrough".

Surgeon Bartley Griffith said the surgery would bring the world "one step closer to solving the organ shortage crisis", the University of Maryland School of Medicine said in a release.

"I look forward to getting out of bed after I recover," he said last week.

mr bennett was reported to be breathing on his own while being carefully monitored.

In a first-of-its kind operation, surgeons successfully implanted the heart of a genetically modified pig into a human patient, saving his life after he'd previously been deemed ineligible for a traditional heart transplant.

Pig heart valves, similar to those in humans, have been used successfully for transplants.

"It creates the pulse, it creates the pressure, it is his heart," Dr Bartley Griffith, the director of the cardiac transplant program at the medical center, told The New York Times.

"This is nothing short of a miracle," David Bennett Jr told USA Today.

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