Second Pig Kidney Transplant Patient Discharged from Hospital

A pig-kidney has been transplanted into a human patient at NYU medical centre. The patient was suffering from chronic kidney disease, along with other conditions that prevented her from being able to receive a normal transplant. 

The patient, Lisa Pisano, was “getting sicker and sicker,” according to Richard Montgomery, director of the NYU transplant institute. “Really, her life expectancy would be measured in days or weeks.”

Dr Montgomery of NYU.

She is now recovering in hospital and gave a press conference from her bed on Wednesday. 

Pisano is the second kidney disease patient to receive a pig-kidney transplant in the past month.

In March, “physician-scientists” at Harvard Medical School transplanted the first pig kidney into a living human transplant patient, Richard Slayman of Massachusetts. The 62 year-old patient received a pig kidney that had been genetically edited to prevent the human body from rejecting it.

“It was truly the most beautiful kidney I have ever seen,” said the transplant surgeon, Tatsuo Kawai.

Such transplants have been long in the making. Experimental research results were published in 2022 showing that pig kidneys transplanted into brain-dead patients appeared to be functioning normally.

End-state kidney disease patients must undergo hours-long dialysis sessions multiple times per week, during which waste is manually filtered from the blood.

Pig organ transplants into human patients have a chequered history. In 1967, a South African patient received a pig heart transplant, but died just 17 days later.

In recent times, two pig heart transplants were carried out at University of Maryland. One patient lived for just two months after the operation, while the second lived for 19 more months.

These pig-kidney transplants have met with much more success. “We’re going to have an opportunity to really address the problem that we’re trying to address, which is the scarcity of organs,” said Dr Montgomery of NYU. 

However, the challenge is not just science but scale. It is not yet clear whether the necessary gene edits in pigs can be bred into a herd that reproduces itself normally. With 800,000 end-stage kidney patients in the US alone, not everybody will be able to have a spare organ from a laboratory grown and edited pig.

Thumbnail and article images courtesy of Harvard Medical School.

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