The medical world has reached a new milestone, for the first time doctors performed a successful animal-to-human kidney transplant. Robert Montgomery, a New York transplant surgeon, conducted the 54-hour surgery that transplanted a pig’s kidney into a brain-dead human. The procedure is done at NYU Langone Health in New York City. The research has not yet been peer-reviewed nor published in a medical journal.
The kidney was attached to blood vessels in the patient’s upper leg, outside the abdomen. The organ started functioning normally, making urine and the waste product creatinine “almost immediately,” according to Dr. Robert Montgomery who performed the procedure. They used a genetically engineered pig so that its tissues no longer contained a molecule known to trigger almost immediate rejection.
In the USA, more than 100,000 people are on transplant waiting lists, including the 90,240 people who require a kidney transplant. Every day, twelve people on the waiting lists pass away.
Dr. Montgomery said genetically engineered pigs could potentially be a sustainable, renewable source of organs — the solar and wind of organ availability. He said that It just looked like any transplant he has ever done from a living donor. A lot of kidneys from recently dead people don’t work immediately, and it can hold days or even weeks for them to start working.
Although the organ was not implanted in the body, problems with xenotransplants from animals like primates and pigs usually occur at the interface of the human blood supply and the organ, where human blood flows through pig vessels. The fact that the organ functioned outside the body is a strong indication that it will work in the body, Dr. Montgomery said.
Three years ago Montgomery himself received a transplant, a human heart from a donor with hepatitis C because he was willing to take any organ.
The pigs lack a gene that makes alpha-gal, a sugar that triggers an instantaneous immune response in humans. The genetically altered pig, dubbed GalSafe, was developed by United Therapeutics Corp’s Revivicor unit. It was approved by the U.S. In December 2020, the Food and Drug Administration will approve it for use as a meat-free food and as a prospective source of human therapeutics. The FDA stated that medical products evolved from pigs might still need particular FDA approval before they can be used in humans.