US Surgeons Perform Successful Pig-to-Human Kidney Transplant

Thursday brought forth a remarkable announcement from a US hospital: surgeons have achieved a medical milestone by successfully transplanting a kidney from a genetically-modified pig into a living patient, a feat previously thought impossible.

The four-hour surgery, conducted on Saturday, involved a 62-year-old man diagnosed with end-stage kidney disease, as revealed by Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH).

“The procedure marks a major milestone in the quest to provide more readily available organs to patients,” the hospital said in a statement.

Pointing to a pervasive dilemma, the Boston hospital emphasized the widespread shortage of organs, with MGH reporting over 1,400 patients awaiting kidney transplants.

“Our hope is that this transplant approach will offer a lifeline to millions of patients worldwide who are suffering from kidney failure,” said Dr Tatsuo Kawai. Kawai was a member of the team which carried out the operation.

The hospital explained that the pig kidney utilized for the transplant underwent genetic modifications, including the removal of harmful pig genes and the incorporation of certain human genes.

Read also: Nigerian Prodigy, Igwilo Performs Landmark Surgery In US

The hospital said the patient, Richard Slayman of Weymouth, Massachusetts, “is recovering well at MGH. And is expected to be discharged soon.”

Slayman suffers from Type 2 diabetes and hypertension. He had received a transplant of a human kidney in 2018. But it began to fail five years later and he has been on dialysis.

Slayman said he agreed to the pig kidney transplant as “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.”

Slayman is black and the hospital said the procedure could be of particular benefit to ethnic minorities who suffer from high rates of kidney disease.

“This health disparity has been the target of many national policy initiatives for over 30 years. (But) with only limited success,” said Slayman’s nephrologist, Dr Winfred Williams.

“An abundant supply of organs resulting from this technological advance may go far to finally achieve health equity. It will also offer the best solution to kidney failure to all patients in need,” Williams said.

Xenotransplantation, an expanding frontier in medical science, involves the transfer of organs from one species to another.

Although pig kidneys had been transplanted into brain-dead patients before, Slayman’s case represents a historic first as the recipient of a pig kidney while still living.

Recently, two patients in the United States received pig heart transplants, but unfortunately, both patients survived for less than two months post-operation.

Africa Today News, New York 

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