An experimental pig kidney has been successfully transplanted into such a human without the recipient’s immune response rejecting it immediately, marking a potentially significant step forward that may ultimately help relieve the severe scarcity of human organs available for donation in the world.

During the operation performed at NYU Langone Health in Nyc, a pig with its genes changed such that its cells no longer carried a chemical known to cause nearly instantaneous rejection was used as a model.

The U.S Successfully Tested A Pig Kidney Transplant On A Human Patient

According to Reuters, the receiver was a brain-dead woman with symptoms of renal failure whose family gave their permission to the experiment just before she was to be removed off life support, according to the researchers.

In order to provide researchers access to her new kidney, it was connected to her blood arteries and kept outside her body for three days while she was awake.

The U.S Successfully Tested A Pig Kidney Transplant On A Human Patient

During the study’s first phase, the findings of tests to determine how well a new kidney worked “appeared to be quite typical,” said Dr. Robert Montgomery, the study’s principal investigator.

He noted that the kidney produced “the quantity of urine that you would anticipate” from a transplant human kidney and that there was no indication of the strong, early rejection that has been seen when unaltered pig kidneys are implanted into non-human primates, according to the researchers.

According to Montgomery, the recipient’s elevated creatinine level, which was an indication of poor kidney function before the transplant, recovered to normal after the transplant. As per the United Network of Organ Sharing, over 107,000 individuals in the United States are now waiting for donor organs, with more than 90,000 of them waiting for a kidney. The typical waiting period for a kidney transplant is 3 to 5 years.

Despite decades of research into the potential of utilizing animal organs in transplantation, researchers have been unable to overcome the challenge of preventing rapid rejection even by the human body.

According to Montgomery’s team, eliminating the pig gene for alpha-gal, which encodes a carbohydrate that causes rejection of sugar molecules, or glycans, may be a viable solution to the issue. GalSafe is a genetically modified pig that United Medicines Corp’s Revivicor division created.

The FDA of the United States authorized it in December 2020 for use as a food for individuals who have a meat allergy and a possible source of human medicinal agents.

The FDA said that medical goods derived from pigs would still need special FDA clearance before they could be utilized in humans.

Other researchers are looking at whether GalSafe pigs can be used to produce anything from the aortic valve to skin transplants for human patients, among other things. According to Montgomery, who himself is a heart transplant recipient, the NYU renal replacement experiment will pave the way for studies of patients with end-stage renal failure, which may begin as soon as the next year or two.

If successful, the technique may be used as a short-term treatment for severely sick patients until a human organ becomes available, or it could be used to replace an existing kidney permanently.