A Brain-Dead Person Just Scored Two Kidneys From Genetically Modified Pigs

After only 23 minutes, he could even pee again!
Ameya Paleja
The kidneys were transplanted inside the body.Motortion/iStock

Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham transplanted kidneys derived from genetically modified pigs into a brain-dead person last year as part of human preclinical trials, Science Daily reported.

Organ transplant from another species recently made big news, a heart from a genetically modified pig was transplanted into a human whose heart condition left with no other option. While the transplant was authorized under compassionate grounds by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the idea is catching up with the provider of the organ, Revivicor, already having completed two such trials in dead patients. 

As Science Daily explains, genetically modified kidneys have been extensively tested in non-human primate recipients but testing them in humans before clinical trials can also provide important information about the safety and efficacy of the transplanted organs.

The recipient, in this case, was injured in a motorcycle race and his family consented to him being kept alive on a ventilator so that the procedure could be conducted, New Scientist reported. Unlike the previous experiments, where the kidneys were attached externally to the body, on this occasion, the recipient's kidneys were removed and replaced by those sourced from the pigs. 

As we have reported before, four genes that can potentially cause rejection of the organ by the human immune system are turned off in these pigs, while six genes of human origin are added to aid the process of transplant. 

According to Science Daily, pig-sourced kidneys were placed in the same anatomic location as human kidneys, and connected to the renal artery and vein, along with attachment with the ureter that carries urine from the kidneys to the bladder, and standard immune-suppression treatment was given to the recipient. 

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The transplant was observed for a period of 77 hours and started producing urine within 23 minutes of attachment, Jayme Locke, the surgeon who performed the procedure told New Scientist. However, they did not remove creatinine from the body, something that the researchers have attributed to the recipient's conditions. 

The results of the experiment were published recently in the American Journal of Transplantation. 

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, kidney disease kills more people in the U.S. every year than breast or prostate cancer and an estimated 240 Americans die every day while on dialysis waiting for a kidney transplant. Genetically modified kidneys can be used to address the shortfall, the researchers concluded. 

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