Pig Kidney Works In Human Body For Two Months, Sparking Hope For Future Transplants

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Brent Foster Contributor
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A pig kidney functioned for a record 61 days in a human body, marking a potential milestone for animal-human transplant research, doctors say.

The experiment, run by NYU Langone Health physicians, involved a genetically modified pig kidney placed inside the donated body of a deceased human. Transplant surgeon Dr. Robert Montgomery told AP the researchers’ goal was to see if pig organs can match human organ performance.

Kidney transplants are hard to come by, with over 100,000 people on a national waiting list to receive one. Xenotransplantation, or animal-to-human organ transplants, have long been viewed as a potential solution, though attempts to perform such transplants have failed repeatedly, the outlet reported.

Human immune systems normally reject foreign animal tissue, but the NYU physicians are following a growing trend of working with pig organs due to their anatomical similarity to human organs.

Researchers placed the pig’s kidney and thymus — a gland that can train immune cells — inside the now-deceased human’s body July 14, the outlet reported. The patient, Maurice “Mo” Miller, was brain-dead at the time of the experiment.

The suppression of “the single gene that encodes the biomolecule known as alpha-gal—which has been identified as responsible for a rapid antibody-mediated rejection of pig organs by humans” ensured the body did not reject the pig’s kidney, according to a media release from NYU Langone Health.

The pig’s kidney functioned normally for a month before it began producing less urine, but a quick adjustment with medication designed for immune suppression put things back on course for a bit longer, AP reported.

“We are learning that this is actually doable,” NYU transplant immunologist Massimo Mangiola told the outlet. (RELATED: Researchers Develop ‘Mini Livers’ From Skin Cells That Could Help Thousands Waiting For A Transplant)

University of Maryland School of Medicine faculty gave 57-year-old David Bennett a genetically-modified pig heart in a historic January 2022 transplant. Bennett died in March of the same year.