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A pig kidney was inserted into a patient in the US

A pig kidney was inserted into a patient in the US

For the first time in the world, doctors in the US have transplanted a pig kidney into a living patient. The 62-year-old organ recipient is recovering “well” from Saturday's four-hour surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in Boston, the clinic announced Thursday. He is expected to be released from the hospital soon.

Doctors spoke of a “milestone” in efforts to ensure an adequate supply of seriously ill patients with donor organs. According to the hospital, the pig kidney was genetically modified before the transplant. Pig genes that are harmful to humans have been removed and some human genes added to the organ.

Previous pig kidney transplants have only happened in patients who are already brain dead. In these who were considered clinically dead, the transgenic pig kidneys continued to function normally.

The current recipient of the pig kidney – Richard Slayman from the US state of Massachusetts – suffered from advanced kidney disease and recently had to undergo dialysis. Slayman received a human donor kidney in 2018, but it began to fail last year.

The 62-year-old said he did not agree to a pig kidney transplant “to help me”. He also agreed because the procedure “gives hope to thousands of people who need transplants to survive.”

The shortage of donor organs is a worldwide problem. According to the hospital, more than 1,400 people are on the waiting list for kidney transplant at MGH alone. Tatsuo Awai, one of the doctors involved in the pig kidney transplant, said the procedure was a promising opportunity for “the millions of patients suffering from kidney failure worldwide.”

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Due to the scarcity of human donor organs, medical research is increasingly relying on animal organs. The branch of research is called xenotransplantation, which usually refers to transplanting organs from one species to another.

Doctors in the US have transplanted pig hearts into two patients for the first time in the world since 2022. However, both patients died within two months of surgery.