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Mass. Hospital Announces First Successful Transplant of Genetically Modified Pig Kidney into Living Human

The 62-year-old man had diabetes, hypertension and previously underwent kidney surgery

<p>Credit: Massachusetts General Hospital</p> Surgeons perform kidney transplant with modified pig kidney at Massachusetts General Hospital

Credit: Massachusetts General Hospital

Surgeons perform kidney transplant with modified pig kidney at Massachusetts General Hospital

Surgeons in Massachusetts have become the first to complete a transplant of a genetically modified pig kidney into a live human body.

The Massachusetts General Hospital has announced that it conducted the surgery on a 62-year-old man with end-stage kidney disease during a four-hour surgery on Saturday.

The surgery at the Mass General Hospital Transplant Center included a "genetically-edited pig kidney with 69 genomic edits," according to a release from the hospital.

“Mass General Brigham researchers and clinicians are constantly pushing the boundaries of science to transform medicine and solve significant health issues facing our patients in their daily lives,” President and CEO of Mass General Brigham Anne Klibanski, MD, said.

“Nearly seven decades after the first successful kidney transplant, our clinicians have once again demonstrated our commitment to provide innovative treatments and help ease the burden of disease for our patients and others around the world,” she continued.

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<p>Credit: Massachusetts General Hospital</p> Melissa Mattola-Kiatos, RN, removes a pig kidney from a box to prep for transplantation

Credit: Massachusetts General Hospital

Melissa Mattola-Kiatos, RN, removes a pig kidney from a box to prep for transplantation

According to the New York Times, the recipient of the kidney, state transportation department supervisor Richard Slayman, had diabetes and hypertension and previously underwent kidney surgery. He received a human kidney in 2018 but it failed within five years leading to further complications, his nephrologist Dr. Winfred Williams told the outlet.

“He said, ‘I just can’t go on like this. I can’t keep doing this.’ I started to think about extraordinary measures we could take," Williams said. “He would have had to wait five to six years for a human kidney. He would not have been able to survive it."

In a statement shared by the hospital, the patient said he saw the pig kidney surgery — which he was informed of the "pros and cons" of — as "a way to provide hope for thousands of people who need a transplant to survive."

"I want to thank everyone at MGH who has cared for me, especially Dr. Williams, Dr. [Tatsu] Kawai, the surgeon who performed my first kidney transplant and now this one, and Dr. [Leonardo] Riella, who has orchestrated the logistics behind this new transplant," the patient said. "They have supported me during every step of the journey, and I have faith they will continue to do so.”

Doctors told the Times that Slayman's new organ appears to be functional, he has stopped dialysis, the kidney is making urine and creatinine, and he is improving daily.

Williams also said his patient was "remarkably courageous to step forward" for the surgery, which was performed by Dr. Tatsuo Kawai of the Legorreta Center for Clinical Transplant Tolerance at Mass General and Dr. Nahel Elias.

Related: Pig Kidney Transplanted in Brain-Dead Human Worked for More Than a Month, Researchers Say

<p>Credit: Massachusetts General Hospital</p> Surgeons perform kidney transplant with modified pig kidney at Massachusetts General Hospital

Credit: Massachusetts General Hospital

Surgeons perform kidney transplant with modified pig kidney at Massachusetts General Hospital

As the release from the hospital notes, the surgery was performed under the Food and Drug Administration's compassionate use protocol, which grants someone with life-threatening illness access to experimental treatment when no comparable options exist.

Leonardo V. Riella, MD, PhD shared in the release that over 1,400 patients are on a waitlist for a kidney transplant at the hospital. "Some of these patients will unfortunately die or get too sick to be transplanted due to the long waiting time on dialysis. I am firmly convinced that xenotransplantation represents a promising solution to the organ shortage crisis."

The hospital shares that xenotransplantation — or the transplant of an organ from one species to another — could mark a solution to an ongoing organ shortage. According to numbers from the United Network for Organ Sharing, over 100,000 people in the U.S. are on a transplant waiting list with 90,000 in need of kidneys.

Slayman is expected to be discharged from the hospital soon.

<p>Credit: Massachusetts General Hospital</p> Surgeons perform kidney transplant with modified pig kidney at Massachusetts General Hospital

Credit: Massachusetts General Hospital

Surgeons perform kidney transplant with modified pig kidney at Massachusetts General Hospital

“The real hero today is the patient, Mr. Slayman, as the success of this pioneering surgery, once deemed unimaginable, would not have been possible without his courage and willingness to embark on a journey into uncharted medical territory," said Joren C. Madsen, MD, DPhil, Director of the MGH Transplant Center.

"As the global medical community celebrates this monumental achievement, Mr. Slayman becomes a beacon of hope for countless individuals suffering from end-stage renal disease and opens a new frontier in organ transplantation," he continued.

Slayman's surgery comes less than a year after surgeons at NYU Langone Health announced their experiment with transplanting a kidney from a genetically modified pig into a brain-dead man’s body. The surgery replaced both of the man's kidneys, and the patient did not reject the organ, which worked normally for a month, the Associated Press reported at the time.

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