A human recently received a pig kidney transplantation and history watched it to be the first successful attempt where no immediate rejection was observed. The Associated Press reports the major achievement could mean a significant advancement in finding alternatives to human organs due to increasing wait list for organ transplants across the world.
The procedure took place in NYU Langone Health in New York City and the trial was observed for three days.
The family has given their consent to allow the use of a brain-dead patient before the ventilator is plugged off for the experiment, Reuters reported. After showing signs of decreasing kidney functionality, Dr. Montgomery led his team to hook the patient to a pig's kidney.
Two major blood vessels were attached to the kidney externally, and the team observed the situation for three days.
Dr. Montgomery confirmed that the transplanted kidney's test results came out "looked pretty normal" and function similarly to a human's.
Montgomery himself received a heart transplant three years ago, but from a patient with hepatitis C because he didn't have a choice.
ReutersCurrently, over 107,000 people are on the waitlist for organ transplants, and 90,000 of them are waiting for kidneys. However, twelve people die every day while waiting, with the wait time ranging from 3 to 5 years.
These are GalSafe pigs, specially grown, genetically altered pigs from United Therapeutics Corp's Revivicor.
They were approved by U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2020 to be consumed by people with red meat allergies by removing a particular carbohydrate (sugar molecule) called alpha-gal that doesn't exist in the human body.
With the success of the transplantation on the brain-dead patient, researchers are looking into opportunities to conduct more trials for longer observations, mainly with participants on end-stage kidney failure.
Dr. Montgomery commented about these people, "For a lot of those people, the mortality rate is as high as it is for some cancers, and we don't think twice about using new drugs and doing new trials (in cancer patients) when it might give them a couple of months more of life."
The possible results of the trials in years to come may allow people to withhold temporarily with GalSafe pig kidneys or even lead a normal life for years to come with it.
Medical ethicists, legal and religious experts will be consulted to improve the viability of this method for everyone.