University of Maryland School of Medicine surgeon Dr. Bartley P. Griffith is pictured with heart patient David Bennett before a successful transplant of a genetically-modified pig heart on Jan. 7. Bennett died on Tuesday, two months after the surgery. Photo by the University of Maryland School of Medicine/EPA_EFE
March 9 (UPI) -- A 57-year-old man who became the first to receive a heart transplant from a genetically-modified pig died Tuesday two months after the historic surgery.
David Bennett was suffering from terminal heart disease when he received the transplant on Jan. 7. His condition started to deteriorate several days ago, officials at the University of Maryland Medical Center said in a statement.
"We are devastated by the loss of Mr. Bennett," Dr. Bartley P. Griffith, who performed the operation. "He proved to be a brave and noble patient who fought all the way to the end. We extend our sincerest condolences to his family."
"Mr. Bennett became known by millions of people around the world for his courage and steadfast will to live."
Dr. Muhammad Mohiuddin, scientific director of the Cardiac Xenotransplantation Program at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, said Bennett's experience helped contribute to the knowledge in the field and will always be remembered for his historic role.
The Food and Drug Administration had just recently granted an emergency authorization for the surgery on Dec. 31, 2001, just days before Bennett's surgery in an effort to save his life.
"We remain optimistic and plan on continuing our work in future clinical trials," Mohiuddin said.
Griffith said future transplant patients will likely benefit from Bennett's experience.
"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 life-saving benefits to future patients," Griffith said.
David Bennett Jr. said the doctors helped create a hopeful environment for his father despite the odds and the uphill climb to recovery.
"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," Bennett Jr. said, according to NBC News.
"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."