The first person in the world to receive a heart transplant from a genetically modified pig passed away two months after the surgery. US-based David Bennett had undergone the surgery on January 7 earlier this year.

In a statement, the hospital said that his health had started deteriorating several days ago, but he was able to speak to his family in his final hours.

The procedure was carried out by the surgeons at the University of Maryland Medical School after they were given a special dispensation by the US medical regulator earlier this year.

Mr. Bennett, who was ineligible for a human transplant had said: "It was either die or do this transplant. I want to live. I know it's a shot in the dark, but it's my last choice."

The doctors say he had been able to spend time with his family after the surgery and even watched the Super Bowl, but his condition started deteriorating eventually.

"He proved to be a brave and noble patient who fought all the way to the end," said surgeon Bartley Griffith, who performed the transplant.

Similar surgeries have been unsuccessful in the past because a human body rapidly rejects animal organs and starts killing the organ within minutes.

"We have gained invaluable insights learning that the genetically modified pig heart can function well within the human body while the immune system is adequately suppressed," said Muhammad Mohiuddin, director of the university's cardiac xenotransplantation program. "We remain optimistic and plan on continuing our work in future clinical trials."

But in David Bennett's case, the pig whose heart was used for the transplant had undergone gene editing. The genes responsible for organ rejection had been removed.

"This was a breakthrough surgery and brings us one step closer to solving the organ shortage crisis," Dr. Griffith had then said. The precise cause of Mr. Bennett's death is still not clear.

Using pig heart valves in humans is already common and their skin is grafted on human burn victims. Pigs make for ideal donors because of their size, rapid growth, and large litter. According to a report by BBC, as many as 17 people die every day in the US waiting for a transplant, while thousands are on waitlist.

Genetically modified pig
FDA approves genetically-modified pig Photo: Pixabay