American surgeons successfully transplanted a genetically modified pig heart into a living human for the first time earlier this month, a revolutionary moment in the history of medicine.
And to keep the genetically altered pig’s heart beating during the lengthy operation, surgeons used a drug cocktail with a surprising ingredient: cocaine.
Surgeons even had to get permission from the Drug Enforcement Administration to use the nose candy.
“Cocaine’s name comes up because everyone thinks, ‘My God, what is cocaine doing here?'” said Muhammad Mohiuddin, director of cardiac xenotransplantation at the University of Maryland Medical Center. Vice.
Counterintuitively, the drug was injected into the heart to prolong its longevity.
“When we didn’t use this solution, we had failures within 48 hours,” explained the surgeon. “But when we started using this and infusing the heart with this solution, the heart was well preserved and started beating very well.”
The cocktail, developed by the Swedish pharmaceutical company XVIVO, includes a number of other ingredients including cortisol and adrenaline.
Scientists still don’t know why exactly cocaine is an effective way to preserve hearts, but one thing is certain: Without the drugs, the heart would likely have been rejected by the recipient’s body.
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