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In transplant breakthrough, pig kidney successfully attached to human

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For the first time, surgeons have successfully attached a pig kidney to a human and monitored the pink organ’s function for more than 50 hours in a row. He hopes that this breakthrough may one day address the shortage of donor organs for life-saving transplants. While such complex medical procedures have been performed on primates before, this is the first time a pig kidney has been transplanted into a human body and not immediately discarded. Surgeons tried the procedure in a brain-dead recipient, meaning the person was already on life-support and had no chance of recovery.

Experts say this is the most advanced experiment in the field to date and could drastically increase the supply of life-saving organs to people waiting for them around the world. The Associated Press reported that the kidney for this experiment came from an animal that had been genetically modified.

Gene editing was done to prevent the human body from recognizing the organ as “foreign” and rejecting it. After the surgeon connected the pig kidney to the human body, it began to filter out waste, produce urine and did not trigger rejection.

Surgeons at New York University Langone Health Medical Center took two hours to connect the donor pig kidney to the recipient’s blood vessels.

“It was a perfectly normal function,” Dr. Robert Montgomery, who led the surgical team at NYU Langone Health last month, told the Associated Press.

Hundreds of people die every day due to lack of organ donation. If this experiment goes ahead, the hope is that someday animal-to-human organ transplantation – called xenotransplantation – will provide a lifeline to thousands of people around the world waiting for donor organs.

“There is no doubt that this is a highly significant breakthrough,” Darren K Griffin, professor of genetics at the University of Kent, UK, told MIT Technology Review.

Using pigs for donor organs has advantages over monkeys and apes. They have larger litters, shorter gestation periods and limbs than humans. Previously, pig heart valves, their skin grafts and corneas have been used successfully in humans.

The details of the experiment have neither been peer reviewed nor published in any medical journal. He was announced at a press conference on 21 October.


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