Kidney grown in a genetically altered PIG is successfully attached to a human patient in world first
A KIDNEY grown in a pig has been successfully attached to a human patient for the first time – in a major step that could one day lead to the use of animal organs for transplants.
US scientists were able to attach the pig's kidney to a deceased human body and watch it work for two days, observing it operate like a normal kidney that wasn't rejected by the body.
The kidney operated as normal: filtering waste and producing urine, and showed signs of potential use in living patients.
"It had absolutely normal function," said Dr. Robert Montgomery, head of the surgical team last month at New York University's Langone Health.
"It didn't have this immediate rejection that we have worried about."
Pigs have only recently been sought for in medical research, but experts say that's because a sugar found only in pig cells causes immediate organ rejection by humans.
This pig kidney came from a gene-edited animal made to eliminate that sugar and immediate immune system attack.
Surgeons attached the pig kidney to a pair of large blood vessels outside the body of the deceased recipient and observed it for those two days.
The researchers kept the patient's body on a ventilator after getting approval from her family for the experiment.
The deceased woman had wished to donate her organs, but they were not suitable for a traditional donation.
"The experiment worked out", says University of Minnesota Medical School Dr. Andrew Adams, who said "this research is a significant step. It will reassure patients, researchers and regulators that were moving in the right direction."
The idea of using animal organs for human lives goes as far back as the 17th century when medical officers faltered in using animal blood for transfusion.
In the 1900s, surgeons tried transplanting baboon organs to humans, most famously in the case of Baby Fae, a dying infant who lived for 21 days on a baboon heart.
It wasn't until public outcry and the need for more experimental cases that did scientists turn to pigs, which have large litters and short gestation periods as well as human-comparable organs.
Heparin, a blood thinner, is derived from pig intestines. Likewise, pig heart valves have been used successfully for decades in humans.
Several biotech companies in competition to develop useful pig organs for transplant.
More than 90,000 people in the United States alone are in need of a kidney transplant, and 12 die while waiting on the list.
This medical experiment puts new hope in one day achieving suitable pig organs for human use to ease the human organ shortage.
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