US surgeons have achieved a breakthrough in the field of organ transplantation by successfully transplanting a genetically modified pig kidney into a brain-dead patient. The groundbreaking procedure, which lasted a record-breaking 61 days, is part of ongoing research in cross-species transplants to address the growing need for organ transplants.
Currently, there are over 103,000 people on the waiting list for organ transplants in the United States, with 88,000 specifically in need of kidneys. This shortage has led to the exploration of alternative sources for organs, such as genetically modified pig organs.
The surgery was led by Robert Montgomery, director of the New York University Langone Transplant Institute, and marked his fifth xenotransplant procedure. To prevent immediate rejection of the transplanted kidney, the surgical team “knocked out” the gene responsible for the alpha-gal biomolecule. This breakthrough technology provides hope for overcoming one of the major barriers in pig-to-human transplantation.
The donor pig used in the groundbreaking procedure came from a herd cultivated by the Virginia-based biotech company Revivicor. Remarkably, this company is not only approved by the FDA as a source of meat for individuals with alpha-gal allergies but also a reliable source of organs for transplantation.
While early xenotransplantation research focused on primates, pigs have emerged as ideal donors due to their organ size, growth rate, and existing use as a food source. However, previous attempts at pig-to-human transplants encountered challenges such as the presence of porcine cytomegalovirus in the transplanted organs.
Beyond the US, Chinese scientists have made progress in hybrid pig-human kidneys in embryos, sparking ethical concerns about the potential presence of human cells in pig brains. The successful pig kidney transplant in the US offers hope for addressing organ donation shortages, but further research and ethical considerations are necessary to ensure safe and ethical practices.
The groundbreaking procedure highlights the potential of pig-to-human transplants in easing the organ shortage crisis. However, it also raises questions and ethical concerns that need to be carefully addressed as the field of xenotransplantation continues to advance.
“Travel aficionado. Incurable bacon specialist. Tv evangelist. Wannabe internet enthusiast. Typical creator.”