A pig’s kidney has been successfully transplanted into a human.
The transplanted kidney survived for two months from a brain-dead donor.
The kidney was genetically modified and observed for 61 days before it was removed from the donor and life support was removed so the man’s body could be returned to his family.
The transplant was the longest documented of its kind and the fifth transplant between an animal and a human, known as xenotransplantation, performed by New York University’s Langone Transplant Institute.
“We have learned a lot in the last two months of close observation and analysis, and there is good reason to be hopeful for the future,” said Dr. Robert Montgomery.
“None of this would have been possible without the incredible support we received from our late recipient’s family. Thanks to them, we were able to gain critical insight into xenotransplantation as a hopeful solution to the national organ shortage.”
The transplant team managed to remove a gene that causes rapid rejection of pig organs in humans.
They also fused the pig’s thymus gland, which forms its immune system, with the kidney to delay immune reactions.
The kidney functioned normally for a month before the donor’s body began to reject it. The transplant team was able to reverse this with medication and the organ was healthy and normal again after removal.
Regardless, this was a major breakthrough as previous pig organ transplants required up to ten genetic changes, while the last one required only one.
Tissue samples taken also revealed new cellular changes not previously observed.
“To create a sustainable and unlimited supply of organs, we need to know how to handle pig organs transplanted into humans,” said Dr. Montgomery.
“If we test them on a deceased person, we can optimize the immunosuppression regimen and selection of gene edits without endangering a living patient.”
The transplant took place on June 14 and was taken on September 13 from 58-year-old Maurice Miller, who was kept on life support on a ventilator with his family’s permission after being declared brain dead.
The first transplant of this type was performed in September 2021 by Dr. Montgomery, and NYU Langone surgeons also specialize in pig heart transplants.