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First pig kidney transplant to living human

Updated: Apr 2

Kidney surgery

A 62-year-old man with terminal kidney disease has successfully received a kidney transplant from a genetically modified pig.

The world first, carried out at Massachusetts General Hospital (Mass General), Boston, marks a major step forward in providing more readily available organs for people in urgent need of a transplant using xenotransplantation (where an animal organ is transplanted into a human).

Patient Richard Slayman is recovering well and is expected to soon be discharged from hospital, according to Mass General. In a statement he said: “I saw it not only as a way to help me, but a way to provide hope for thousands of people who need a transplant to survive.”

The advent of sophisticated gene editing has allowed researchers to make vital genetic changes to animals to prevent organ rejection by the human immune system. Pigs have been most widely used for this purpose because their organs are very similar to those of humans.

Biotech company eGenesis, which provided the pig kidney, removed three genes involved in rejection and inserted seven human genes, as well as inactivated pig viruses, ultimately leading to the success of the transplant.

Dr Winfred Williams, at Mass General, and the patient’s primary doctor, told The New York Times, “He would have had to wait five to six years for a human kidney. He would not have been able to survive it.”

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