Second human pig kidney transplant announced in the US

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A pig kidney has been transplanted into a human body, a US medical team announced on Thursday. This is the second operation of its kind and the first performed inside the body of a patient, who was in a state of brain death.

The procedure was performed by physicians at the University of Alabama (UAB) in Birmingham and described in a peer-reviewed scientific article published in the American Journal of Transplantation.

The surgery, which took place on September 30, 2021, involved placing two kidneys from a genetically modified pig into Jim Parsons, 57. The kidneys remained functionally viable until the end of the study, 77 hours later.

“Today’s results are a remarkable achievement for humanity and advance xenotransplantation in the clinical realm,” said Selwyn Vickers, dean of the Heersink School of Medicine at UAB, who performed the procedure.

“The transplanted kidneys filtered blood, produced urine and, most importantly, were not immediately rejected,” the UAB said in a statement.

It is hoped that advances in the field of so-called xenotransplantation, or interspecies organ transplantation, will one day resolve the chronic shortage of human organ donations.

The UAB team indicated that this procedure is one step away from becoming a clinical reality. They plan to move to human trials soon and then seek regulatory approval for these types of interventions.

A first pig kidney had already been transplanted into a human by a team from New York University (NYU) on September 25, 2021 and involved a brain-dead patient whose family had given permission for the experiment. In this case, however, the organ was placed outside the body.

That particular procedure involved attaching a kidney to blood vessels in the upper part of one of the patient’s legs so that scientists could examine it and take biopsy samples.

The same team performed another similar experiment on November 22.

Currently, pig heart valves are widely used in humans, and pig skin is grafted onto burn victims.

Pigs are ideal donors because of their organ size, rapid growth, and large litters.

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