Last month, 58-year-old Newark resident Bernard China celebrated the year anniversary of a life-saving heart transplant he received at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, New Jersey's premier heart transplant center.

Around 115,000 people across the country are waiting for heart transplants. Almost 4,000 of those are in New Jersey, according to the most recent numbers by the United Network for Organ Sharing. And those still waiting are surely encouraged by the news about the first-ever genetically modified heart transplant which was completed using the heart of a pig.

In order for the procedure to happen, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had to approve it. Once the heart was approved, a few more steps were needed to carry out the procedure.

First, three genes that are usually responsible for rejection of pig organs were removed. Then a gene that can sometimes result in heart tissue growth was removed. After the removals, six human genes were inserted to help the immune system.

This could be a huge step in medical advancement here in New Jersey and across the country if the patient recovers as planned. As of today, hearts are not readily available and no matter where you are on a donor list, your second chance at life is undetermined.

According to organdonor.gov, 17 people die a day waiting for a heart transplant. This number is far too high and could be resolved if more people become willing to risk a genetically modified heart.

The man who received the pig heart is currently being monitored at the University of Maryland Medicine. Heart centers like Newark Beth Israel Medical Center's Advanced Heart Failure Treatment and Transplant Program, as well as similar ones around the country, are surely waiting with bated breath for the outcome.

It’s still too early to call the transplant a success, but if the immune system carries on with no issues and is able to strengthen, we may have just made an evolutionary advancement in healthcare for people with heart disease.

And NJ could be next.

Opinions expressed in the post above are those of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Judi Franco only.

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