Gene-edited pig kidney transplanted into a person for the first time

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Slayman received his first kidney transplant from a human donor in 2018. The donor kidney was initially functioning well, but after living with diabetes for years, Slayman's kidneys began to fail. Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney disease, which can eventually result in kidney failure.

He had no choice but to go on dialysis, a treatment that removes excess fluid and waste from a person's blood. But dialysis led to complications – his blood vessels were clotting and deteriorating. Slayman was regularly hospitalized and underwent dozens of procedures to correct the problem.

“Slowly but surely, I noticed my patient becoming more frustrated and depressed about his dialysis situation,” Winfred Williams, a kidney specialist and member of Sleman's medical team, said Thursday.

Finally, Williams suggested pig kidney transplantation. Slayman agreed. “I saw this as a way to not only help me, but to provide hope for the thousands of people who need a transplant to survive,” Slayman said in a statement released by Massachusetts General Hospital. Needed.”

The procedure was performed under the Food and Drug Administration's “compassionate use” pathway, which allows a patient with a life-threatening condition to access experimental treatments when no other options exist. Slayman is also being given new immunosuppressant drugs to prevent organ rejection. His medical team is currently monitoring his kidney function using ultrasound.

The Massachusetts team thinks the ideal candidate for a pig kidney would be a patient who was approved for a routine human kidney transplant, but had to wait a long time for a donor.

The pig kidney transplant follows a procedure in January in which surgeons at the University of Pennsylvania successfully attached a gene-edited pig liver to a brain-dead person and found that the organ functioned normally for 72 hours. The liver, also from Egenesis, contained the same 69 edits as Sleman's kidney.

The liver is a more complex organ because it performs multiple functions, so researchers do not think pig liver is yet ready to be used as a replacement for human liver. Instead, they can be used outside the body and attached to patients who are waiting for a human organ or who need temporary support while their own liver heals.

Researchers are working on transplanting a modified pig kidney into a person. Last year, Egenesis reported that a kidney from one of its edited pigs worked as well as a kidney in a monkey for more than two years. And scientists at New York University and the University of Alabama at Birmingham have transplanted gene-edited pig kidneys into brain-dead patients to see how well the organs function.

Stomach transplant surgeon Jayme Locke of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, who has overseen some of those experiments, was thrilled to hear about the Boston kidney transplant. “This is amazing news and it's great to see it coming into the clinic,” he said. wired in an interview.

Locke says the recent spate of xenotransplantation experiments shows that the idea of ​​using pig organs in people is gaining momentum and is here to stay. “I think it really has staying power, and it will really revolutionize the field and hopefully provide organs to all who need them,” she says.

Locke's team is also considering transplanting kidneys from pigs to humans. She said she has several patients in mind for the procedures and is waiting for the green light from the FDA. “We're ready to go.”