Pig Kidney Transplant Patient Leaves Hospital

The first man to undergo a groundbreaking kidney transplant from a pig has been released from the hospital.

The 62-year-old was discharged on Wednesday, two weeks after the groundbreaking surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH).

Previous attempts at organ transplants from genetically modified pigs have been unsuccessful.

Scientists are celebrating the remarkable success of this procedure, considering it a significant milestone in the field of transplantation.

The information was shared in a press release on Wednesday by MGH, which is Harvard Medical School’s largest teaching hospital in the US city of Boston.

The hospital provided an update stating that Richard “Rick” Slayman from Weymouth, Massachusetts, had been dealing with end-stage kidney disease and was in need of an organ transplant.

The patient underwent a successful surgery on 16 March, during which his doctors performed a four-hour-long procedure to transplant a genetically-edited pig kidney into his body.

According to reports, Mr. Slayman’s kidney has made a remarkable recovery and he has been able to discontinue dialysis treatment.

According to Mr. Slayman, the opportunity to leave the hospital and return home was an incredibly joyful moment for him.

“I’m thrilled to finally have the opportunity to enjoy precious moments with my family, friends, and loved ones without the weight of dialysis holding me back. It’s been a long journey, but I’m grateful for the chance to embrace a better quality of life.”

Last year, his previously transplanted kidney started to fail, leading doctors to consider the possibility of a pig kidney transplant.

“I viewed it as not just a means to assist myself, but as a source of hope for the countless individuals who require a transplant in order to survive,” he expressed.

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The recently transplanted pig kidney underwent genetic modifications by eGenesis, a pharmaceutical company based in Cambridge. Their aim was to eliminate pig genes that could be harmful and introduce specific human genes to enhance compatibility with humans.

The hospital highlighted its rich history in pioneering medical advancements, including the world’s first successful human organ transplant – a kidney – in 1954. Additionally, it emphasized the extensive research it had conducted with eGenesis on interspecies organ transplants, known as xenotransplantation, over the past five years.

Genetic modifications were made to the pig kidney to increase its compatibility with the human body

The procedure received approval from the Food and Drug Administration, which provided a single Expanded Access Protocol, also referred to as compassionate use. This protocol is designed to offer patients with life-threatening illnesses access to experimental treatment.

The team behind the transplant celebrated it as a significant milestone that could help address the global shortage of organs, particularly among ethnic minority communities who are disproportionately affected by the shortage.

“This technological advance has the potential to provide a plentiful supply of organs, which could greatly contribute to achieving health equity and offering the optimal solution for kidney failure – a fully functioning kidney – to all patients in need,” stated Dr. Winfred Williams, the physician overseeing Mr. Slayman’s treatment at MGH.

Recent data from the United Network for Organ Sharing, a US non-profit organization, reveals that over 100,000 Americans are in need of a critical organ transplant.

In 2023, the total number of donors, including both deceased and living individuals, was slightly below 23,500.

Every day in the US, an estimated 17 lives are lost while awaiting an organ transplant. Among the organs in highest demand for transplantation, kidneys top the list.

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Although this marks the initial instance of a pig kidney being transplanted into a human, it is worth noting that pig organs have been utilized in transplant procedures before.

Two additional patients have undergone pig heart transplants, but unfortunately, those procedures proved to be unsuccessful as the recipients passed away a few weeks later.

There were indications in one instance that the patient’s immune system had rejected the organ, a well-known risk in transplant procedures.

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