Groundbreaking: Surgeons Test Pig Kidney in Human Patient

( – According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, as of October 20, there are 106,743 people awaiting organ transplants in the country. Of those, 90,277, or approximately 84.5%, need a healthy kidney. However, only 31,361 transplants of any kind happened between January and September of this year. Researchers are constantly looking for alternatives to help those who languish on the lists, even working to see if animal organs would be viable options. Now doctors have taken the first step to do just that.

Doctors at New York University (NYU) Langone Health attached a kidney from a genetically modified pig to a legally brain-dead patient to see if this is a possible workaround to the shortage of donated organs. The animals carry a sugar molecule that’s triggered nearly instantaneous rejection by the human recipient in past attempts, so scientists altered the DNA and produced approximately 100 without the offending molecule.

According to the lead surgeon on the study, Dr. Robert Montgomery, over three days of observation, the organ produced roughly the same amount of urine as a human transplant, and the patient’s creatinine levels normalized. Because there are potential ethical considerations — like raising animals strictly for this purpose — Dr. Karen Maschke, Ph.D., is working with a team of other scientists and medical doctors to develop a policy addressing these issues going forward.

The hope is those who need a transplant can get one faster and have a chance at a long, healthy life.

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