US scientists have made a breakthrough in organ transplantation, with a macaque monkey surviving for more than two years after receiving a kidney from a genetically altered pig.
The research by biotech company eGenesis and Harvard Medical School, in Massachusetts, used CRISPR gene-editing tools on miniature pigs to make them closer to their human counterparts and tackle organ rejection and any harmful viruses.
After the transplant, immune suppression treatments were given and the monkey lived for 758 days – previous experiments had seen monkeys survive for only up to 176 days. The research article was published in Nature – listen also to the Nature podcast.
Under US Food and Drug Administration requirements (a minimum of 12 months survival in animals) the study can now go to human clinical trials.
Michael Curtis, eGenesis’s chief executive, told The Guardian: “This extraordinary milestone could lead the way to enhanced outcomes for countless patients waiting desperately for lifesaving organ transplants.”
Researchers are making remarkable advances in kidney research. The integration of animal organs into humans without rejection has been a vast challenge, with two recent attempts in 2021 and 2023. Additionally, a bioartificial kidney has been developed and other studies have grown early-stage human kidneys in pig embryos.