Xenotransplantation is the transportation of an organ from one species to another. It’s important because there is a worldwide shortage of donated organs for humans.
In this trial, 10 genetically modified pigs’ kidneys were used. Four pig genes that had proved a barrier to successful cross-species transplants were removed while six human genes were inserted.
This allowed standard post-transplant drugs to be used after the transplantation to prevent rejection.
The researchers found that the modified pig kidneys provided “life-sustaining” function for a week after transplantation. They were transplanted into a brain-dead patient.
The American scientists said that the research showed that pig organs could function for a week inside a brain-dead person. In this instance, they were transplanted into a 52-year-old man who was brain-dead due to a motorcycle accident. The man had said that he wanted his body to be donated to research.
The report is published in the journal JAMA Surgery.
Jayme Locke was the transplant surgeon and she works out of the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She was the lead author of the research document and said: “It has been truly extraordinary to see the first ever preclinical demonstration that modified pig kidneys can provide normal, life-sustaining kidney function in a human safely. The kidneys functioned remarkably over the seven-day study.”
They are hopeful for a first clinical trial in living humans and have gathered safety and scientific information for regulatory clearance.
It is hoped that the kidneys will provide a solution to a severe problem of organ shortages causing a crisis which is responsible for tens of thousands of preventable deaths each year.
In the study the man’s kidneys were removed and dialysis stopped. The kidneys came from a pig at a disease-free facility. They were flushed and packed using the normal procedures for human-to-human transplantation. And they were transplanted in the same way to the operating theatre.
Locke said: “At each of those steps, we were able to test that we do have the correct standard operating procedures in place and that we are able to operationalise this in a meaningful, safe way. We are very hopeful that this data will provide further evidence that xenotransplantation is a viable and achievable solution to the organ shortage crisis. The gap between supply and demand is vast.”
Comment: does it occur to you that it is very unfair that we treat pig so badly in intensive farming environments? It’s unfair, isn’t it, that we abuse them so much and they end up on supermarket shelves, sometimes whole bodies. It looks disgusting and disrespectful to me. Here we are using their organs to improve the quality of human life but on the other hand we are abusing the animal. I think it’s immoral.
There are so many nice things about pigs. They are intelligent and sociable. They make good pets except for their size!