Man Gets Pig Heart

A pig that is not fully grown
A pig that is not fully grown (source)

A pig heart was transplanted into a human on January 7th, at the University of Maryland Medical Center, USA. Putting valves from pig hearts into humans has become common, but this is the first time that an entire pig heart has been used.

The heart came from a pig that was genetically modified. To reduce the likelihood of organ rejection, some of the pig’s genes were deactivated, and human genes were implanted. It has only been a few days, but transplant recipient, David Bennett, is doing well so far.

There are not enough available human organs for the people that need them, and because he is too unhealthy, Mr. Bennett was not going to receive one. However, Mr. Bennett wanted to continue living, and the pig heart transplant surgery was his only chance. When given this opportunity, he joked, “Well, will I oink?”

Doctors are hopeful that this medical breakthrough will solve the problem of organ shortages. In the past, attempts at animal to human transplants involved chimpanzees and baboons. However, because genetic modification is now possible, and pigs are easy to raise and reach the size of human adults quickly, a lot of organs could be produced and transplanted successfully.


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Worksheet with activities


Hear the article spoken:

Useful Language

  • Transplant (v, n) - an operation in which an organ or body part is moved from one person (or animal) to another
  • Valve (n) - a structure in the heart that lets blood flow in only one direction
  • Gene (n) - a part of a cell that controls appearance, growth, behavior, etc.
  • Genetically modified (adj) - something that has been changed on a genetic level
  • Likelihood (n) - the chance something will happen
  • Organ (n) - a part of the body that does a particular job
  • Rejection (n) - when a body fails to accept a new organ as part of its system
  • Implant (v) - to put something into something else so that it becomes part of that thing
  • Recipient (n) - a person that receives something
  • Oink (n, v) - the sound that a pig makes
  • Breakthrough (n) - a sudden increase in knowledge


Discuss the following questions with your partner(s).

  1. What can we do to keep our hearts healthy?
  2. How do you feel about surgery?
  3. If you were an animal, which animal would you like to be?
  4. How did you feel when you learned a pig heart was transplanted into a human?
  5. If you had the choice of having an animal organ transplant or dying, what would you choose?
  6. What’s your prediction? Will Mr. Bennett survive, or will his body reject the new heart?
  7. Are some animals better than others to receive an organ from? From which animals would you not want an organ?
  8. In the future, do you think it will be easy to get an organ transplant? Why or why not?
  9. How do you feel about genetic modification? Do you eat genetically modified food?
  10. The shortage of organs is a problem. What can we do about it?
  11. Is it ethical to grow pigs to provide organs for humans?