The transplanted kidney functioned for two months before being removed for study by surgeons and offers new hope that pig organ transplants could be successful in living humans.
On July 14, surgeons at NYU Langone Transplant Institute performed a kidney transplant on Maurice "Mo" Miller, a 58-year-old man from New York who was declared brain-dead. Miller's sister donated his body for the experiment with an agreed-upon end date.
The kidney came from a GalSafe pig, which is a pig genetically modified to have organs similar to humans. The FDA approved GalSafe pigs for potential human transplant experiments and as a food option for people with the tick bite-related meat allergy called alpha-gal syndrome.
Surgeons also fused the animal's thymus to the kidney transplanted into Miller, with the hope it would help train immune cells.
Miller was kept on a ventilator, and the transplanted kidney functioned for two months before the surgical team removed it on September 13 for examination. It was the longest a genetically modified pig kidney has functioned in a human body.
According to the Associated Press, over 100,000 people are on the national transplant waiting list, with most individuals needing a kidney. However, thousands die before an organ becomes available.
If animal-to-human transplants, called xenotransplantation, are successful in living humans it could help many people get the transplants they need. However, xenotransplantation has failed in the past. The failures are primarily caused by the human immune system attacking foreign animal tissue.
However, GalSafe pig organs have not caused immediate organ rejection.
This is the fifth xenotransplant performed by the Transplant Institute. On September 25, 2021, the team performed the world's first pig kidney transplant using a deceased human, followed by another pig kidney-to-human transplant procedure two months later. In 2022, NYU Langone surgeons also performed two genetically engineered pig heart transplants on donated human bodies.
Because of their success, the team plans to share the experiment details with the FDA and hope this move will eventually lead to testing pig kidney transplants in living humans.