1st human-pig heart transplant unexpectedly changed heart's electrical system, research suggests

American Heart Association researchers found heart rhythms in the first pig-to-human heart transplant changed from what is expected from a pig heart.

The first pig-to-human heart transplant was performed in January. Researchers then took electrocardiograms for each of the 61 days the patient survived. Pig hearts in pig bodies show a short PR interval of 50 to 120 milliseconds, a short QRS of 70 to 90 milliseconds, and a short QT of 260 to 380 milliseconds, according to an Oct. 31 news release from the AHA.

"In contrast, the first-ever ECG of a genetically modified heart xenotransplant found a longer PR interval of 190 milliseconds, QRS duration of 138 milliseconds and QT of 538 milliseconds, which is longer than what would be expected from a pig heart in a pig body," said Timm Dickfeld, MD, PhD, a professor of medicine and director of electrophysiology research at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore.

"In a human heart, when those parameters get longer, this can indicate signs of electrical or myocardial disease. The pig heart ECG parameters were extended to what we see in a human heart and often the measures even extended beyond what we consider normal in a human heart."

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