US animal-human heart transplant faint echo of Indian controversy

January 13, 2022
US animal-human heart transplant faint echo of Indian controversy

US doctors have successfully transplanted a heart from a genetically modified pig into a man – the Maryland patient is reported to be recovering well after the highly experimental surgery, which evokes memories of an Indian doctor who had attempted the same over 20 years ago in the northeastern state of Assam.

What sets the transplants apart is that Dr. Dhani Ram Baruah, of international recognition, was arrested and imprisoned for over a month for conducting a pig-to-human heart and lung transplant in 1997. The patient was a 32-year-old man with a ventricular septal defect, or hole in the heart. The patient unfortunately died a week after the transplant from acute infection.

According to Dr. Baruah, the surgery — conducted at his very own facility, the Dhani Ram Baruah Heart Institute, and Institute of Applied Human Genetic Engineering in Guwahati — was completed in 15 hours.

Within a fortnight, the controversial transplant ended in arrest for Dr. Baruah and a fellow transplant surgeon from Hong Kong, Dr. Jonathan Ho Kei-Shing, for culpable homicide under the Indian Transplantation of Human Organs Act, 1994. The Assam government formed an inquiry into the case and found that the procedure was unethical and had not been registered as required under the transplant laws.

The doctors were imprisoned for 40 days.

Dr. Baruah later spent the next 18 months under virtual house arrest.

Despite public taunts, Dr. Baruah continued his research and would hit headlines again. He claimed to have developed a “genetically modified” vaccine that would correct congenital heart defects (2008) as well as a “cure” for HIV/AIDS (2015). For the latter discovery, Dr. Baruah presented a patient called Bijendra Singh of Rohtak, Haryana state – Bijendra tested HIV-positive in 2008 but was “totally cured” after Dr. Baruah’s intervention and had recently tested negative.

The doctor also claims to have “cured” 86 people from HIV/AIDS in the past seven-to-eight years.

Read: MALAYSIA: Kidney transplants to be fully available after COVID-19 hiatus

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