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baby baboon

Photo by Andrew Liu on Unsplash

The baby baboon is wearing a mesh gown and appears to be sitting upright. “This little lady … looks pretty philosophical, I would say,” says Eli Katz, who is showing me the image over a Zoom call.

This baboon is the first to receive a heart transplant from a young gene-edited pig as part of a study that should pave the way for similar transplants in human babies, says Katz, chief medical officer at the biotech company eGenesis.

The company, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, has developed a technique that uses the gene-editing tool CRISPR to make around 70 edits to a pig’s genome. These edits should allow the organs to be successfully transplanted into people, the team says. As soon as next year, eGenesis hopes to transplant pig hearts into babies with serious heart defects. The goal is to buy them more time to wait for a human heart. 

Before that happens, the team at eGenesis will practice on 12 infant baboons. Two such surgeries have been performed so far. Neither animal survived beyond...