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Genetically modified pig kidney is utilized in transplant surgery 


A 62-year-old man received a new procedure involving the transplant of a genetically modified pig’s kidney, marking a monumental moment in medical history.

The procedure was performed in Massachusetts General Hospital on Richard Slayman, 70 years after Dr. Joseph Murray made history at its sister hospital, Brigham & Women’s Hospital in 1954 where he performed the first kidney transplant by implanting the recipient’s identical twin’s kidney into the patient.

Xenotransplantation, the procedure that involves the implantation, fusion or transplantation of live cells or organs from a non-human source into a human, is not a new concept. Pig kidneys had been transplanted into two brain-dead recipients and two men had received heart transplants from pigs, but died months after.

However, the kidney transplant done on Slayman is the first of its kind performed on a living person.

Slayman received a human kidney transplant in 2018, but after showing signs of kidney failure in 2023, he had to be placed back on dialysis. He then started having complications with dialysis, which led to his doctor suggesting he get a kidney transplant from a pig.

“I saw it not only as a way to help me, but a way to provide hope for the thousands of people who need a transplant to survive,” Slayman stated to 7 News Boston.

So far, Slayman’s vitals are promising, as he is expected to be discharged from Massachusetts General soon.

The success of a procedure of this kind could mark a shift in the medical field regarding organ transplants.

“In 2022, the U.S. finally reached 25,000 kidney transplants in one year, but there are still an estimated twelve people dying each day without the opportunity to receive a life-saving transplant,” The National Kidney Foundation shared on its website.

Dialysis is a temporary treatment that is currently used for kidneys that are not able to dispel liquids and waste on their own, often used for those waiting for a kidney transplant, but with the use of xenotransplantation, dialysis could be rendered obsolete as more kidneys are available for those on the waiting list.

In the past, researchers have been able to successfully grow early-stage human embryos from pig kidneys, which was the first time a human organ had been able to be developed in another animal. That procedure brought forth the possibility of growing human organs in animal matter, such as pigs, closer to reality, as patients would be able to accept the organ without their immune system rejecting it since the organ would be grown using the patient’s own stem cells.

Xenotransplantation is proving to be a crucial turning point in the medical field and could improve the lives of those waiting anxiously for an organ, possibly saving thousands, if not millions, of people.

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