Take 2: Governor sues federal government, pig heart surgery

The Take 2 series features brief weekly updates on the state or nations relevant news for the community.

Hannah Gonzalez

The Take 2 series features brief weekly updates on the state or nation’s relevant news for the community.

Texas Governor sues Biden administration: Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas released a letter on Jan. 4 announcing his intention to sue the federal government over an unconstitutional vaccine mandate for the Texas National Guard. In his letter, the Governor reminds everyone in his chain of command not to punish any member of the Texas National Guard for not choosing to receive the mandate. On Aug. 25, the Department of Defense issued a memorandum for Mandatory Coronavirus Disease 2019 Vaccination of Department of Defense Service Members which immediately began full vaccination of all members of the Armed Forces including the National Guard. Roughly 98% of the active-duty force has received the COVID-19 vaccine. Its active troops had to be vaccinated by Dec. 15, but the National Guard has until June 30. 

Significance: The order states that National Guardsmen who refuse to get the vaccine face consequences such as loss of pay or even discharge. Texas officials are fighting back saying the Biden administration doesn’t have the authority to dictate the individual’s choice. Abbott along with six other governors from Oklahoma, Wyoming, Alaska, Iowa, Mississippi and Nebraska have asked the Pentagon to exempt their Guardsmen from the vaccine mandates as long as they are the commander-in-chiefs of their state. In Abbott’s letter, he stated “It is the federal government that has put Texas’ guardsmen in this difficult position. As your commander-in-chief, I will fight on your behalf. That is why I’m suing the Biden Administration over its latest unconstitutional vaccine mandate.” 

Man receives life-saving heart transplant from genetically altered pig: At the University of Maryland Medical Center on Jan. 7, 57-year-old David Bennett received a heart from a genetically modified pig in a last effort to save his life. Bennet knew there was no guarantee if the procedure would be successful, but he decided to undergo the eight-hour operation because he was ineligible for a heart transplant. Prior attempts at such transplants, or xenotransplantation, have failed because patients’ bodies rapidly reject the animal organ. However, the Maryland surgeons modified the genes of the pig to remove a sugar in its cells responsible for the hyper-fast organ rejection. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allowed the surgery under a “compassionate use” emergency authorization available when a patient with a life-threatening condition has no other options. 

Significance: Although it is too soon to determine if the operation will continue to work, it marks a step in the decades-long quest to one day use animal organs for life-saving transplants. The transplant showed that a heart from a genetically modified animal can function in the human body without immediate rejection. Last year, around 41,354 Americans received a transplanted organ and 3,817 received a human donor heart, which is more than ever before; however, the potential demand is still very high, and the shortage of organs causes about a dozen people on the list to die each day. Researchers hope procedures like this will establish a new era of medicine when kidneys and other organs are no longer in short supply for the thousands of Americans waiting on replacement organs.