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Mass General surgeons perform first pig-to-human kidney transplant in living patient

by John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter | March 26, 2024
Operating Room
Surgeons at Massachusetts General Hospital have performed the institute's first pig-to-human kidney transplant.
Surgeons in Massachusetts have, for the first time, transplanted a genetically modified pig kidney into a live human being.

The four-hour surgery took place on March 16 at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and was performed on 62-year-old Richard Slayman, who has end-stage kidney disease. The kidney was provided by organ transplant supplier eGenesis.

“At MGH alone, there are over 1,400 patients on the waiting list for a kidney transplant. 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,” said Dr. Leonardo Riella, medical director for kidney transplantation, in a statement.

Slayman previously underwent a transplant in 2018 where he received a human kidney, after being on dialysis for seven years for type 2 diabetes and hypertension. The organ functioned properly for five years before failing, forcing him to go back on dialysis, which led to vascular access complications that required frequent hospital visits and surgical revisions that impacted his quality of life.

eGenesis previously provided similar pig kidney transplants for monkeys that lived for 176 days and in one case, more than two years, according to Reuters. For Slayman’s, the company genetically edited the kidney to remove any genes that would be harmful to a human and inactivated viruses inherent to pigs that may infect humans.

The procedure was performed under a single FDA Expanded Access Protocol (EAP), also known as compassionate use, where a single patient or group of patients with serious, life-threatening illnesses or conditions are allowed to undergo experimental treatments or trials due to there being no comparable treatment options or therapies. The FDA approved the EAP operation in February.

In addition to the transplant, Slayman also received an infusion of novel immunosuppressant drugs tegoprubart, provided by Eledon Pharmaceuticals, and ravulizumab, provided by Alexion Pharmaceuticals.

Previous pig kidney and other xenotransplants have been attempted, though none have been performed before in a living, breathing human being. Last July, surgeons at NYU Langone transplanted a genetically modified pig kidney into a brain-dead, 57-year-old man whose family donated his body to science. The kidney functioned for over one month, setting a new record.

In 2022, surgeons at the University of Maryland Medical Center performed the first-ever pig heart transplant in a human, who lived for two months with the organ.

Slayman is reported to be recovering well and is expected to be released soon.

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