A team at NYU Langone Health have successfully transplanted a genetically engineered pig kidney into a brain-dead human patient.
While the number of people requiring transplants has grown significantly, the availability of organs has not increased at the same pace. Moreover, a huge majority of people on the transplant list die awaiting an organ. Therefore, scientists have turned to artificial organs and xenotransplantation to overcome the organ shortage. Xenotransplantation involves the transfer of tissues or organs from an animal donor into a human. Pigs are most widely used for transplants as they possess organs similar to humans. However, animal organs are immediately rejected by the human body. Now, a team at NYU Langone Health has managed to successfully transplant a pig kidney into a human.
‘A Transformative Moment’
In order to avoid organ rejection, the team used a kidney from a genetically engineered pig. They removed the gene responsible for producing the sugar molecule alpha-gal biomolecule. This molecule aids rejection, causing an attack from the human immune system. Next, surgeons attached the pig kidney to blood vessels in the upper leg, outside the patient’s abdomen. They then observed the kidney for two days.
According to Dr. Robert Montgomery, who led the transplant team, the kidney performed normally. It was able to filter water and produce urine.
The recipient was a braindead woman whose family graciously agreed to donate her body for the procedure. Thus, playing a huge role in creating viable organs for future transplants.
In the past, doctors have transplanted pig skin grafts, pig heart valves, and even pig corneas into humans. However, successful transplantation of the pig kidney will likely pave the way for xenotransplantation.
Source: NYU Langone Health