In a First, 62-Year-Old Man Gets a Gene-Edited Pig Kidney

Doctors say organ should be good for at least two years
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 21, 2024 3:02 PM CDT
Medical Milestone: Pig Kidney Transplanted Into Human
A pig kidney sits on ice, awaiting transplantation into a living human at Massachusetts General Hospital, Saturday, March 16, 2024, in Boston, Mass.   (Massachusetts General Hospital via AP)

Doctors in Boston have transplanted a pig kidney into a 62-year-old patient, the latest experiment in the quest to use animal organs in humans. Massachusetts General Hospital said Thursday that it's the first time a genetically modified pig kidney has been transplanted into a living person, per the AP. Previously, pig kidneys have been temporarily transplanted into brain-dead donors, and two men received heart transplants from pigs, although both died within months. The new patient, Richard Slayman of Weymouth, Massachusetts, is recovering well from the surgery Saturday and should be discharged soon, doctors said.

Dr. Tatsuo Kawai, the transplant surgeon, said the team believes the pig kidney will work for at least two years. If it fails, Slayman could go back on dialysis, said Dr. Winfred Williams. He noted that unlike the pig heart recipients who were very sick, Slayman is "actually quite robust." Slayman had a kidney transplant at the hospital in 2018 but went back on dialysis last year when it showed signs of failure. When dialysis complications arose requiring frequent procedures, his doctors suggested a pig kidney transplant. "I saw it not only as a way to help me, but a way to provide hope for the thousands of people who need a transplant to survive," said Slayman, a systems manager for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, in a statement.

The surgery took four hours, with 15 people in the operating room who cheered when the kidney started making urine, doctors said.

  • Note of caution: Dr. Parsia Vagefi, chief of surgical transplantation at UT Southwestern Medical Center, called the announcement "a big step forward." But echoing the Boston doctors, he said studies involving more patients at different medical centers would be needed for it to become more commonly available.
  • The need: More than 100,000 people are on the national waiting list for a transplant, most of them kidney patients, and thousands die every year before their turn comes. The Food and Drug Administration gave permission for Slayman's transplant under "compassionate use" rules.
(More kidney transplant stories.)

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