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Milestone Achieved in Pig-to-Human Kidney Transplant, Paving the Way for Future Organ Transplants

by Michael Nguyen
10 comments
Pig-to-Human Kidney Transplant

A corridor filled with medical professionals stood in silence at the hospital to honor an unprecedented achievement: For an unparalleled period of two months, a genetically engineered pig’s kidney had functioned seamlessly within a brain-dead human patient.

This significant trial concluded on Wednesday when the medical team at NYU Langone Health surgically removed the pig’s kidney. Subsequently, the body of the donor, Maurice “Mo” Miller, was handed over to his family for cremation.

This event sets a new record for the longest time that a pig kidney, genetically modified, has operated effectively inside a human body—albeit one that was brain-dead. Researchers are now preparing to present their key findings to the Food and Drug Administration, with aspirations of extending these experiments to living patients in the future.

Dr. Robert Montgomery, who spearheaded the project, expressed both elation and relief in an interview with The Big Big News. “Achieving a two-month span of functional stability in a pig kidney is highly encouraging for subsequent endeavors,” he noted.

Montgomery, himself a heart transplant recipient, is a staunch advocate for the potential of animal-to-human organ transplants as a solution to the critical shortage of organs in the United States. Over 100,000 individuals are on the national organ waiting list, primarily for kidneys, and thousands are expected to lose their lives before receiving one.

Prior attempts at xenotransplantation have largely been unsuccessful, as the human immune system tends to reject animal tissue swiftly. The novelty of the current research lies in employing genetically engineered pigs whose organs closely resemble human organs.

Earlier tests on deceased human bodies were unable to provide insights into chronic forms of organ rejection that can develop over longer periods. Last year, a pig heart transplantation conducted by the University of Maryland only succeeded in prolonging a patient’s life for two months. Montgomery’s team aims to address various questions raised by the FDA about the performance of pig organs relative to human organs.

By maintaining Miller’s body on life-support systems for an extended period, Montgomery hoped to provide some of these answers. Miller’s sister, Mary Miller-Duffy, who had consented to her brother’s participation in the experiment after his brain death, recently received a note from a California resident awaiting a kidney transplant, expressing gratitude for her contribution to this groundbreaking research.

The trial involved replacing Miller’s original kidneys with a pig kidney and thymus, leading to a month of trouble-free operation. However, a decline in urine output was observed and subsequently managed by adjusting the standard immunosuppressive medication, showing the organ’s resilience.

Dr. Massimo Mangiola, a transplant immunologist at NYU, stated, “We are discovering that this endeavor is, indeed, feasible.”

The team also made strides in addressing additional FDA queries, reporting no discernible difference in how the pig kidney responded to human hormones, processed antibiotics, or demonstrated medicine-related side effects.

The immediate next steps involve an exhaustive analysis of approximately 180 tissue samples from every major organ and system in the body, to search for potential complications arising from the xenotransplant.

Although tests on deceased patients cannot guarantee similar outcomes in living subjects, they do offer invaluable data, according to Karen Maschke, a research scholar at the Hastings Center who consults on the ethics and policy aspects of xenotransplant clinical trials.

The primary motivation behind these experiments is to offer those on the organ waiting list another chance at life, emphasized Mangiola.


The Health and Science Department of The Big Big News is supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Educational Media Group. The AP retains exclusive responsibility for all content.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Pig-to-Human Kidney Transplant

What is the significance of the two-month functioning of the pig kidney in a human body?

The two-month successful operation of a genetically modified pig kidney in a brain-dead human body marks a milestone in medical research. It is the longest such organ has functioned inside a human, offering new prospects for future animal-to-human organ transplants.

Who led the experiment and where was it conducted?

The experiment was spearheaded by Dr. Robert Montgomery and conducted at NYU Langone Health. Dr. Montgomery is also a heart transplant recipient.

What challenges have previous xenotransplantation attempts faced?

Prior attempts at xenotransplantation often failed due to immediate rejection of the animal organ by the human immune system. The new experiment used genetically modified pig organs to make them more compatible with human physiology.

How did the family of the deceased donor, Maurice “Mo” Miller, react?

Maurice Miller’s sister, Mary Miller-Duffy, consented to the experiment. She later received a note from a kidney transplant candidate, thanking her for her family’s contribution to groundbreaking research.

What are the implications for those on the organ waiting list?

More than 100,000 people are currently on the national organ waiting list, mostly requiring a kidney. This experiment opens up new possibilities for sourcing organs, potentially easing the organ shortage crisis.

What were the medical observations following the transplant?

For the first month, the pig kidney functioned without issues. A subsequent decline in urine output was observed, but it was effectively managed by adjusting the standard immunosuppressive medication.

What are the next steps in this research?

The research team plans to perform an exhaustive analysis of tissue samples from various major organs and systems in the body to search for potential complications arising from xenotransplantation. They also aim to present their findings to the Food and Drug Administration.

How reliable is this experiment as a precursor to trials involving living humans?

While the test offers invaluable insights into xenotransplantation, experts like Karen Maschke of the Hastings Center caution that results from deceased subjects cannot guarantee similar outcomes in living individuals.

What were some of the questions addressed during this experiment?

The experiment aimed to address questions raised by the FDA concerning how pig organs perform tasks compared to human organs, how they respond to human hormones, and how they process antibiotics or demonstrate medicine-related side effects.

What motivates the researchers in conducting this experiment?

The primary motivation is to provide those on the organ waiting list with another chance at life, aiming to alleviate the severe shortage of available human organs for transplantation.

More about Pig-to-Human Kidney Transplant

  • NYU Langone Health’s Official Website
  • FDA Guidelines on Xenotransplantation
  • The Hastings Center on Ethics in Xenotransplantation
  • National Organ Transplant Waiting List Statistics
  • Dr. Robert Montgomery’s Research Profile
  • Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Educational Media Group

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10 comments

Waiting4aKidney September 14, 2023 - 10:36 pm

This news gives me hope. Been on the list for a kidney transplant for 2 yrs now. Can’t wait to see where this research leads.

Reply
InnovationFan September 15, 2023 - 6:23 am

This is what happens when science, technology and medical research come together. Just amazing. But yeah, lots of questions still to answer.

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ScienceLover September 15, 2023 - 7:42 am

Dr. Montgomery and his team are real heroes. Pushing the boundaries to save lives. Makes me excited bout the future of medicine.

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TechieGeek September 15, 2023 - 9:44 am

genetically modifying pig organs to act like human’s? Sounds like sci-fi becoming reality to me. Whats next, lab-grown organs?

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ConcernedEthicist September 15, 2023 - 11:29 am

The ethical implications are staggering. While the research is undoubtedly revolutionary, have we fully considered the long-term effects? Especially in terms of animal rights.

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RegulatoryAffairExpert September 15, 2023 - 11:58 am

Curious to see how the FDA will respond to these findings. It’s a regulatory minefield. Could open doors or could shut them real quick.

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SkepticalReader September 15, 2023 - 12:27 pm

interesting but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Trials on a brain-dead human is one thing, but applying this on living patients? Long way to go I guess.

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MedicalStudent91 September 15, 2023 - 1:00 pm

Fascinating research. I’m studying med and this kind of innovation blows my mind. But I wonder how ethical it is? What happens if the pig’s organ malfunctions in a living human?

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CuriousMom September 15, 2023 - 4:06 pm

My son wants to be a surgeon, gonna make him read this. If this is the future of medicine, better he learns about it now.

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JohnDoe42 September 15, 2023 - 4:18 pm

Wow, this is groundbreaking! can’t believe we’ve come this far in medical science. This could be a game changer for so many ppl waiting for organs.

Reply

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