My1sttoday: US doctors successful transplanted pig’s kidney into human being.
The United States surgeon’s said they have successfully given a pig’s kidney to a person in a transplant breakthrough, they hope could ultimately solve donor organ shortages. The operation was performed at NYU Langone Health in New York City. The kidney came from a pig that had been genetically modified to stop the organ being recognised by the body as “foreign” and being rejected.
The work is not yet peer-reviewed or published but there are plans for this. Experts say it is the most advanced experiment in the field so far. Similar tests have been done in non-human primates, but not people, until now. Using pigs for transplants is not a new idea though. Pig heart valves are already widely used in humans. And their organs are a good match for people when it comes to size.
The doctors connected the pig kidney to a pair of major blood arteries outside the body of a deceased recipient and monitored it for two days. The kidney fulfilled its job — filtering trash and producing urine – without causing rejection.
History of Animal to Human Transplant
The idea of animal-to-human transplants, also known as xenotransplantation, dates back to the 17th century, when fumbling efforts to utilise animal blood for transfusions were made. By the twentieth century, doctors began attempting baboon organ transplants into people, most famously Baby Fae, a dying child who lived 21 days with a baboon heart.
With little long-term success and much public outrage, scientists shifted their focus from monkeys to pigs, tampering with their DNA to bridge the species divide.
Pigs have a competitive edge over monkeys and apes. Because they are grown for food, utilising them as organs poses less ethical problems.
Pigs have big litters, short gestation periods, and organs that are similar to those of humans.
According to Montgomery, a heart transplant recipient, the NYU kidney transplant experiment should pave the way for studies in patients with end-stage renal failure in the next year or two.
The method may be tested as a short-term treatment for severely ill patients until a human kidney becomes available, or as a permanent graft in such studies.
The present study used a single transplant and the kidney was only left in place for three days, so any future studies are likely to reveal additional hurdles that will need to be addressed, according to Montgomery.
For Montgomery, the research has a personal dimension: he himself was on a waitlist for a heart transplant, which he finally received two years ago.
The technique could one day provide a “renewable source of organs,” much like wind and solar provide sustainable energy, he said.
“I think people will see that and accept that, particularly the people who are waiting and desperate — they will see this as a potential miracle for them as we move this forward.”
Montgomery’s team had the idea that removing a pig gene that produces a sugar molecule called alpha-gal would solve the problem. The genetically changed pig is called GalSafe. It is developed by Revivicor of the United Therapeutics Corporation.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the process in December 2020 for possible use in medicine as well as food.
Some scientists are researching whether GalSafe pigs can be used for heart and skin needs. Organs developed from the pigs, however, would still require specific FDA approval before being used in humans, the agency said.
The current experiment was only in place for a short time. Montgomery added that any future trials could likely bring new problems that will need to be solved.
The United Network for Organ Sharing says nearly 107,000 people are currently waiting for organ transplants in the U.S. More than 90,000 are waiting for a kidney. It can take three to five years for patients to find a kidney transplant.
Karen Maschke is a researcher at the Hastings Center. She helps develop ethics and policy guidance for the trials with support from the National Institutes of Health.
She said raising pigs to be organ donors feels wrong to some people. But it may grow more acceptable with consideration for their well-being.