US surgeons claim to implant a pig heart in a 57-year-old man as ‘a medical first’ is bogus.

Exactly 25 years ago, Dr. Dhaniram Baruah, a well-known cardio-thoracic surgeon from Glasgow, had implanted a pig heart on a 32-year-old patient at Sonapur near Guwahati in Assam.

“This was a breakthrough surgery and brings us one step closer to solving the organ shortage crisis,” Dr. Bartley Griffith, who surgically transplanted the pig heart, claimed.

Dr. Griffith claimed that “the first-in-the-world surgery will provide an important new option for patients in the future.”

The pig-heart transplant on the patient, David Bennett took place on Friday at the University of Maryland Medical School.

While claiming “the first-in-the-world surgery”, it is surprising that Dr. Griffith nowhere mentioned Dr. Dhaniram Baruah’s pioneering work in pig-heart transplantation.

In January 1997, Dr. Dhani Ram Baruah, along with Hong Kong-based cardiac surgeon Dr Jonathan Ho, had implanted a pig heart on 32-year-old patient Purno Saikia.

The patient, Purno Saikia, had a ventricular septal defect, and had survived for seven days after the pig heart transplant.

Unfortunately, the patient had developed hyper-acute rejection, and died.

The incident of the death of the patient had stirred a major controversy. Dr. Dhaniram Baruah and Dr. Jonatha Ho were arrested on January 10, 1997, under the Transplantation of Human Organs Act, 1994.

Interestingly, Dr. Baruah was arrested under the Transplantation of Human Organs Act, 1994 several months before its adoption by the Assam government. He is in Guwahati Central Jail for 40 days.

Dr. Baruah had claimed that the implant of pig heart cannot come under the purview of Transplantation of Human Organs Act, 1994 as it was ‘xeno-transplantation (animal to human)’.

The then Assam government had instituted an inquiry into the case, and had claimed that the pig heart implant procedure was ‘unethical’.

Dr. Dhaniram Baruah, the founder of the first artificial heart valve, ‘Baruah21’, was not shattered even after his arrest. He continued with his research in his secluded heart institute at the outskirts of Guwahati.

In 2007, Dr. Baruah had unveiled his ‘magic molecules’, Baruah Alpha DH2 and Baruah Beta DH2, which could bypass the pain of bypass surgeries.

He had claimed the molecules were derived from edible medicinal plants, and were developed after 10 years of research.

Unfortunately, neither the Assam Government nor the Ministry of Health extended any support to Dr. Dhaniram Baruah continued with his pioneering research works.

Unlike the Assam government, the US Food and Drug Administration granted emergency authorization for the pig heart transplant to the University of Maryland Medical School on New Year’s Eve.

Though Dr. Griffith and his team did not mention Dr. Dhaniram Baruah’s work, they took lessons from the controversial pig-heart surgeon of Assam.

Knowing it well that 32-year-old Purno Saikia had died of ‘hyper-active rejection’, Dr. Griffith and his team picked up the donor pig which belonged to a herd that had undergone genetic editing procedures.

Three genes that could have led to ‘hyper-acute rejection’ of pig organs by a human body were knocked out. And, six human genes responsible for human acceptance were inserted into the genome.

In 2015, was back in the news for his claim to have discovered the cure for HIV/AIDS, and had cured nearly 100 patients.

Anirban Roy

Anirban Roy is Editor-in-Chief of Northeast Now. He can be reached at: editor@nenow.in