By Pradeep Kumar
ITANAGAR, Jan 12: American surgeons have claimed to have implanted a pig heart on a 57-year-old David Benet on New Year’s Eve successfully to create a record. The emergency authorization was granted by the US Food and Drug Administration to University of Maryland Medical School for the surgery.
This claim is bogus as Dr. Dhani Ram Baruah, a well-known cardio-thoracic surgeon from Glasgow, had implanted a pig heart on patient Purno Saikia, 32 at Sonapur near Guwahati in Assam, 25 years ago in 1997.
“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, adding “the first-in-the-world surgery will provide an important new option for patients in the future.”
Dr. Dhani Ram Baruah along with Hong Kong-based cardiac surgeon Dr Jonathan Ho, had implanted a pig heart on Saikia in January 1977.
Despite such claim, it is surprising that Dr. Griffith did not mention about Dr. Baruah’s pioneering work in pig-heart transplantation. But Dr. Griffith and his team took lessons from Dr Baruah’s surgery. Knowing it well that Saikia had died of ‘hyper-active rejection’, the team picked up the donor pig which belonged to a herd that had undergone genetic editing procedures.
Saikia, had a ventricular septal defect and had survived for seven days after the transplantation. Unfortunately, he had developed hyper-acute rejection, and died. His death had stirred a hornet nest and Dr. Baruah & Dr. Ho were arrested on January 10, 1997, under Transplantation of Human Organs Act, 1994.
Interestingly, Dr. Baruah was arrested under the Act several months before its adoption by Assam Govt and put in Guwahati Central Jail for 40 days. The then Assam Govt had instituted an inquiry and had claimed that the pig heart implant procedure was ‘unethical’.
Dr. Baruah had claimed that the implant of pig heart cannot come under the purview of 1994 Act as it was ‘xeno-transplantation (animal to human)’.
Founder of the first artificial heart valve – ‘Baruah21’, he was not shattered even after his arrest and continued with his research in his Dr.Dhani Ram Baruah Heart Institute & Research Centre on the outskirts of Guwahati.
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 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 Govt nor its Health Ministry had extended any support but Dr. Baruah continued with his research works.
In 2015, Dr Baruah was back in news for his claim to have discovered the cure for HIV/AIDS and had cured nearly 100 patients.
Dr Baruah was hailed as a genius for inventing first biological and fully implantable heart in 1997 and had shocked the world when he transplanted pig’s organs and blood into a human.
Dr. Baruah and his contributions to medical sciences were very well received all over the world. But the pig heart doctor’s imaginative genius went in vein after landing in Dispur at the request of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. His scientific knowledge was spoiled in political rivalry by those belonging to medical profession and he was put behind the bars along with hardened criminals.
The CBI had given him clean chit later, but by then everything had disappeared into oblivion. Dolly, the most loving pig of his piggery, was dead and the Heart City, in the outskirt of Guwahati set up by him, had turned into a ghost village.