Scientists have succeeded in making a genetically modified pig’s kidney work for humans, a breakthrough that reflects the hopes of many waiting for a transplant.
The operation took place on September 25 at NYU Langone Hospital in New York. The kidney was not strictly fitted into the human body, but was attached to the blood vessels of the patient who had suffered a stroke, and his family approved the examination at the upper level of his leg.
If success is guaranteed, the pig may one day be raised with the aim of providing organs (not kidneys, but lungs, heart, etc.) to humans.
Two day experience
Robert Montgomery, director of the NYU Langone Institute of Transplantation, said the kidney “worked well” within two and a half days of testing. “He did what he had to do, […] He produced urine. “
Such an alternative has already been tried in animals. A pig kidney worked for a whole year.
But this is the first time for a man. For good reason: The human body has antibodies that attack a type of sugar that is commonly found in “all pig cells”, which Robert Montgomery explains, “immediately rejects the organ.” The animal was genetically modified to produce this sugar and no “rapid renal rejection” was observed.
Nearly 107,000 Americans are currently on the waiting list for an organ transplant, of which 90,000 are kidney. Every day, 17 people in the country die who need transplant surgery.
Why a pig instead of another animal? “Pigs are the right size, they grow fast, and the litter contains a lot of young people,” Professor Robert Montgomery replied. “This is very acceptable because we already use pigs for food.”
Pig heart valves are already widely used in humans and can be used to attach their skin to severe burns.
Large clinical trials may begin “within a year or two.”
“An interesting step”
Since the detailed results of the study have not yet been published in the journal Science, some experts have welcomed the news with caution. Alan Archibald, a geneticist at the University of Edinburgh, commented: “This is an interesting step on the path to using genetically modified pigs as a source for transplantation.
Xenograph is not new to humans from animals. Early experiments focused on animals, and physicians have tried cross-breeding since at least the 17th century.
In 1984, the heart of a baboon was transplanted to a baby, but the little one nicknamed “Baby Fay” survived only 20 days.