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US surgeons successfully test pig kidney transplant in human patient

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For the first time, a pig kidney was transplanted into a human without triggering immediate rejection of the recipient’s immune system, a potentially important advance that could help alleviate a severe shortage of human organs for donation.

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The procedure performed at NYU Langone Health in the city of New York, was done using a pig whose genes had been altered so that its tissues no longer contained a molecule known to trigger almost immediate rejection.

The recipient was a brain-dead patient with signs of kidney dysfunction, whose family consented to the experiment before her life support was removed, the researchers told Reuters.

For three days, the new kidney attached itself to her blood vessels and was kept outside of her body, allowing the researchers to access it.

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The results of the transplanted kidney function tests “looked pretty normal,” said Dr. Robert Montgomery, a surgeon at transplants, who led the study.

The kidney produced “the amount of urine you would expect” from a transplanted human kidney, he said, and there was no evidence of the early and vigorous rejection seen when unmodified pig kidneys are transplanted into nonhuman primates.

The recipient’s abnormal creatinine level, an indicator of poor kidney function, returned to normal after transplantation, Montgomery said.

On USAAbout 107,000 people await organ transplants, with 90,000 needing a kidney, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing. Average waiting times for a kidney are three to five years.

Researchers have been working for decades on the possibility of using animal organs for transplants, trying to prevent immediate rejection by the human body.

Montgomery’s team theorized that deleting the gene from pork For a carbohydrate that triggers rejection, a sugar or glucan molecule, called alpha-gal, would avoid the problem.

The genetically altered pig, named GalSafe, was developed by the Revivicor unit of United Therapeutics Corp. It received a green light from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in December 2020, for use as a food for people with a meat allergy and as a potential source of human therapeutics.

Medical products developed from pigs would still require specific FDA approval before being used in humans, the agency said.

Other researchers are considering whether GalSafe pigs can be sources of everything from heart valves to skin grafts for human patients.

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