World first: a genetically modified pig kidney was transplanted into a living recipient!

World first: a genetically modified pig kidney was transplanted into a living recipient!

In the United States, surgeons announced on March 21 that they had transplanted the kidney of a genetically modified pig into a living patient. A first which could be the starting point of a solution against the chronic shortage of organ donations?

For the first time in the world, a pig’s kidney has been transplanted into a man. At Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, the beneficiary is a 62-year-old patient suffering from chronic kidney failure.

An operation that will mark the history of transplantation

The 4-hour operation took place last Saturday March 16, not without warning the patient of the exceptional nature of the operation. “The doctors carefully explained the pros and cons of the procedure to me,” said the patient, Richard Slayman, originally from Weymouth, Massachusetts. He had already undergone a human kidney transplant, which did not completely work, forcing him to return to dialysis.

“I saw this as a way to not only help myself, but also to give hope to thousands of people who need a transplant to survive.”he added in the press release.

The first feedback is positive, the medical team indicates today that the patient is recovering well and that he should be released from the hospital soon.

A first on a living patient

This is not the first time that a pig organ has been tested in a transplant, but it is the first time that a genetically modified kidney has been tested on a “living” patient.

Thus, in 2021, kidneys from genetically modified pigs had already been transplanted, and worked, into humans, but they were brain dead. Living patients have also previously received a heart transplant from a genetically modified pig, but then died. Each attempt is therefore a risky attempt.

The challenge of “xenografts” to overcome the organ shortage

Faced with the thousands of people waiting for an organ transplant, the field of xenografts, as transplants of animal organs into humans are called, is advancing at high speed. But it also represents a major challenge: in fact, in this option, the recipient’s immune system tends to attack the foreign organ. It is therefore essential to carry out genetic modifications in order to reduce the risk of rejection.

In the case of this kidney transplant, some pig genes were removed, and human genes added, using CRISPR technology, the press release explains. That’s not all: scientists have also carried out “inactivation de retrovirus pig to eliminate the risk of infection after transplantation.

“The success of this transplant is the culmination of the efforts of thousands of scientists and doctors over several decades,” pointed out Tatsuo Kawai, surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital. We hope it will take.

As a reminder, more than 100,000 people are waiting for an organ transplant in the United States. There are nearly 22,000 in Europe according to the biomedicine agency. The kidney is the most commonly required organ.