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Breakthrough: First Pig-to-Human Kidney Transplant Offers Hope Amid Organ Shortage Crisis

US surgeons accomplished a historic milestone by performing the first pig-to-human kidney transplant at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston on March 16. This groundbreaking surgery tackles the scarcity of available organs for patients in need. Richard Slayman, the 62-year-old recipient from Weymouth, Massachusetts, is recovering well after the four-hour surgery and is expected to be discharged soon.

Dr. Jim Kim, director of kidney and pancreas transplantation at the USC Transplant Institute in Los Angeles, highlighted the interest among experts in the long-term outcomes of this pioneering animal-to-human transplant. Slayman, who underwent a human kidney transplant in 2018 after seven years on dialysis, experienced organ failure after five years, leading to a return to dialysis treatments.

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The kidney for the transplant came from eGenesis, a Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company specializing in genetically editing pigs to remove harmful genes and enhance compatibility with humans. Moreover, eGenesis deactivated viruses inherent to pigs that could infect humans.

Earlier studies demonstrated promising results with kidneys from similarly edited pigs transplanted into monkeys, with survival periods ranging from an average of 176 days to over two years. The transplant utilized an experimental antibody, tegoprubart, developed by Eledon Pharmaceuticals, to prevent rejection of the pig organ by the patient’s immune system.

Dr. Robert Montgomery, director of the NYU Langone Transplant Institute, praised the surgery’s significance in advancing xenotransplantation, offering an alternative organ source for those suffering from kidney failure.

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More than 100,000 people in the U.S. await organ transplants, with kidneys in high demand. Transplant centers are exploring various approaches in gene editing and medications while awaiting FDA authorization to conduct clinical trials for further insights into optimizing treatments for patients on waiting lists.

Despite previous challenges, such as the University of Maryland’s transplant of a genetically modified pig heart into a terminally ill patient in January 2022, the successful kidney transplant represents a significant breakthrough in addressing the organ shortage crisis and improving patient outcomes in transplantation.

 

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