In December 1996, Assam’s controversial cardiac surgeon Dr. Dhaniram Baruah took the medical world by a storm by transplanting a pig-heart on a 32-year old patient.

Dr Baruah, a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons, was arrested by the Assam Police for transplanting a pig heart to a human recipient.

After almost 23 years, renowned surgeon from the UK, Sir Terence English has claimed that adapted pig hearts could transform the cardiac treatment in the world.

Sir English, who pioneered heart transplantation in the UK, said adapted pig hearts could be transplanted into patients within the next three years.

On the 40th anniversary of the first successful heart transplant, Sir Terence English has been quoted by British media that operation would try to replace a human kidney with a pig’s in 2019.

“If the result of xeno-transplantation is satisfactory with pig kidneys to humans, then it is likely that hearts would be used with good effects in humans within a few years,” 87-year-old surgeon said.

Sir English claimed if it works with a kidney, it would also work with a heart.

It is definite that Dr. Baruah was much ahead of his colleagues in the medical world, and had created a history by implanting a pig heart on 32-year old patient, Purno Saikia.

Despite hyper-active rejection, Dr. Baruah’s patient had survived seven days. The patient was suffering from ventricular septal defect, or hole in the heart.

Dr. Baruah had conducted the historic pig-heart transplantation along with a cardiac surgeon from Hong Kong, Dr. Jonathan Ho.

Both Baruah and Ho were arrested and charged under Section 304 of the Indian Penal Code and Section 18 of the Transplantation of Human Organs Act, 1994.

Interestingly, both the cardiac surgeon were arrested under the Transplantation of Human Organs Act, 1994 much before the Assam government had adopted the federal act.

Echoing Dr. Baruah’s claims, Sir English said the anatomy and physiology of a pig’s heart is similar to that of a human’s, so they are used as models for developing new treatments.

A couple of years ago, researchers from Germany and Switzerland reported that baboons were implanted with genetically modified pig hearts, and the animals survived for than six months.

The researchers replaced the hearts of five baboons with those from genetically engineered pigs. This is seen as a breakthrough in human trials for inter-species transplants.

Dr. Baruah is now based in Sonapur, about 33 kms east of Guwahati, has given open-heart surgeries, and has discovered two bio-molecules which can bypass the bypass surgeries.

Anirban Roy

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

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