Breakthrough: Surgeons transplant pig kidney to human [Video]


  • Surgeons have successfully attached a working pig kidney to a human, USA Today reported.
  • The procedure is a breakthrough, although surgeons have yet to fully transplant a pig organ into a person.
  • The organ was taken from a genetically modified pig, potentially a major source of organs for patients in need. 

Surgeons have successfully attached a pig’s kidney to a human and confirmed that the body accepted the transplant in a major scientific breakthrough, The New York Times reported

This successful operation is a promising sign as scientists work to be able to use animal organs in life-saving transplants in humans.

Scientists altered a pig gene and engineered the kidney to eliminate sugar to avoid an immune system attack. In the past, the human body would reject the transplant due to the presence of glycan, a sugar molecule in pig cells.

Surgeons then attached the pig kidney to blood vessels in the upper leg outside the body of a brain-dead recipient and observed its function for 54 hours.

Doctors said the kidney had “absolutely normal function” and filtered waste and produced urine. 

“It was better than I think we even expected. It just looked like any transplant I’ve ever done from a living donor. A lot of kidneys from deceased people don’t work right away, and take days or weeks to start. This worked immediately,” Robert Montgomery, the director of the N.Y.U. Langone Transplant Institute who performed the procedure in September, told The New York Times.

“Genetically engineered pigs could potentially be a sustainable, renewable source of organs — the solar and wind of organ availability,” Montgomery added.

The company that engineered the pig, Revivicor, has a herd of 100 genetically altered animals reared in tightly controlled conditions in Iowa. 

In December, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the gene alteration in the Revivicor pigs as safe for human food consumption and medicine, The Guardian reported. However, the FDA added that more documentation was needed for pig organ transplants to humans.

Animal-to-human transplants, or xenotransplantation, attempts have been documented for hundreds of years, and it started with blood transfusions in the 17th century and primate organ transplants in the 1960s.

“Pigs have advantages over monkeys and apes. They are produced for food, so using them for organs raises fewer ethical concerns. Pigs have large litters, short gestation periods, and organs comparable to humans,” The Associated Press reported

Pig heart valves also have been used successfully for decades in humans. 

However, rearing pigs to be organ donors may give rise to ethical problems, Karen Maschke, a research scholar at the Hastings Centre, told The Associated Press. But, she added, it could become more acceptable if concerns about animal welfare are addressed.

Source: The Hill

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