World first pig kidney transplant a success

Scientists used gene editing technology to remove “harmful pig genes”.
pig kidney transplant

In a world first, surgeons in the U.S. have conducted a successful transplant of a genetically modified pig’s kidney into a living person.

Scientists used gene editing technology to remove “harmful pig genes”.

They also added “certain human genes” to improve the organ’s compatibility with a human and boost the chances of the transplant’s success.

The pig kidney transplant

Surgeons at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in Boston completed the transfer in a four-hour procedure this week.

The recipient is a 62-year-old man living with life-threatening kidney disease.

The hospital said: “The procedure marks a major milestone in the quest to provide more readily available organs to patients.”

While the surgery was a world first on a living patient, it’s not the first time a pig kidney transfer has been completed on a human.

Last year, surgeons at the New York University Langone Transplant Institute transplanted a pig kidney into a man who had been declared brain-dead. Doctors kept the man’s heart beating through ventilator support.

The surgery demonstrated that genetically modified pig kidneys could “replace the function of a human kidney”. After two months of the kidney functioning successfully, the man’s life support was turned off.

The kidney

Researchers at eGenesis, a U.S.-based gene engineering and biotech company, have been developing genetically modified pigs.

The animals are specifically bred with altered genes. For example, one of the gene modifications protects humans against viruses pigs can carry.

eGenesis said there are millions of people around the world living with kidney disease, but that “the demand for organs far outpaces supply”.

Next step

eGenesis hopes human-compatible donor organs, like the pig kidney, will “alleviate the shortage of transplantable organs” and save lives.

MGH noted the success of the once ”unimaginable” procedure would not have been possible without the kidney recipient’s “courage and willingness to embark on a journey into uncharted medical territory.”

It said he is “recovering well” and is “expected to be discharged soon”.

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