A genetically modified pig kidney transplanted into a human: towards unlimited organs?

Published by Adrien - Tuesday, March 26, 2024 - Other Languages: FR, DE, ES, PT
Source: Massachusetts General Hospital

A medical event occurred in the United States: the first transplantation of a pig kidney into a man.

Richard Slayman, aged 62, made history by becoming the first living patient to receive a pig kidney, in an operation carried out by Massachusetts General Hospital. After seven years on dialysis due to renal failure caused by type 2 diabetes and hypertension, and a previous human kidney transplant in 2018 that failed five years later, Slayman was given a new opportunity thanks to this medical breakthrough.

The pig kidney before transplantation.
Credit: Massachusetts General Hospital

This transplantation is the culmination of many years of research on genetically modified organs, aimed at addressing the critical shortage of human organs available for transplantation. Biotechnology, with the help of the company eGenesis, plays a key role in this progress.

Using CRISPR, an innovative genetic editing system, scientists modified the DNA of pigs to make their organs compatible with the human body. This modification includes the deletion of three genes responsible for the production of sugars attacked by the human immune system, the addition of seven human genes to prevent organ rejection, and the deactivation of viral DNA sequences that could be harmful to humans.

In total, 69 genetic modifications were made to adapt the pig kidney for its new human body.

To minimize the risks of organ rejection, Slayman received treatments based on antibodies and immunosuppressive drugs. The apparent success of this operation opens up promising perspectives for the future of transplants, suggesting a day when dialysis could become obsolete.

This breakthrough is not only hope for the thousands of people waiting for a transplant but also represents a potential breakthrough in solving the problem of unequal access to kidney transplants, especially for patients from ethnic minorities. The abundant supply of organs from this technology could greatly contribute to health equity and offer the best solution against kidney failure: a functional kidney for all those in need.
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