In a first, surgeons successfully transplant a pig kidney into a man

Last Saturday, Richard Slayman made history: He became the first living person to receive a genetically modified kidney from a pig, surgeons at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston said Thursday.

Slayman, 62, whose kidneys had failed and who had been on dialysis, underwent the four-hour operation Saturday to receive the pig kidney, said his nephrologist, Dr. Winfred Williams, the associate chief of the nephrology division at Mass General.
It really is a groundbreaking milestone,” William said. “Should the kidney continue to work well and this is a success, I think it represents a breakthrough in a number of different areas.”

The first successful pig kidney transplant in a living recipient — a milestone in the field of so-called xenotransplantation, or animal-to-human transplant — could offer hope to the tens of thousands of people in the U.S. on the waiting list for organ transplants, as well as countless others worldwide.

More than 100,000 people in the U.S. are on transplant waiting lists, including about 90,000 who need kidneys, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing, a nonprofit group that manages the U.S. organ transplant system.

But xenotransplantation still comes with significant risks. There have been two pig-to-human heart transplants in the U.S.; in both cases, the patients lived for no more than two months.
Slayman’s operation was five days ago. He’s still recovering at Mass General, but Williams said his doctors hope to send him home this weekend, as long as no complications come up.

So far, there have been no signs that his body’s immune system is rejecting the kidney, Williams said.
His blood pressure, his vital signs are very stable,” he said. “He looks almost completely on the way to full recovery.”

Still, doctors are collecting samples of Slayman’s blood around the clock, looking for signs of a dangerous virus, which is believed to have killed the man who received the first genetically modified heart from a pig in 2022.

The question of how long the kidney will last remains.


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