A pig’s kidney has been transplanted into a brain dead man where it survived for two months in a breakthrough for the future of organ transplant surgeries. 

The genetically engineered kidney was observed in the body of 58-year-old Maurice Miller for 61 days before it was removed, life support switched off and the body handed back to the family.

The study, which is the longest-documented case of its kind, gives new hope to the future of organ supply to those desperately in need of a transplant.

It was the fifth xenotransplant carried out by the team at New York University’s Langone Transplant Institute, which took place on July 14.

It was removed on September 13 from Mr Miller who had been on a ventilator, with his family’s consent, after being declared brain dead. He had collapsed but because he was suffering from cancer was unable to donate his organs.

A pig's kidney has been transplanted into the body of 58-year-old Maurice Miller (pictured), who is brain dead man where it survived for two months

A pig's kidney has been transplanted into the body of 58-year-old Maurice Miller (pictured), who is brain dead man where it survived for two months

A pig’s kidney has been transplanted into the body of 58-year-old Maurice Miller (pictured), who is brain dead man where it survived for two months 

The genetically engineered kidney (pictured) was observed in the body of Mr Miller for 61 days before it was removed

The genetically engineered kidney (pictured) was observed in the body of Mr Miller for 61 days before it was removed

The genetically engineered kidney (pictured) was observed in the body of Mr Miller for 61 days before it was removed

Dr Robert Montgomery, who carried out the surgery, was himself the recipient of a heart transplant.

He said: ‘We have learned a great deal throughout these past two months of close observation and analysis, and there is great reason to be hopeful for the future,.

‘None of this would have been possible without the incredible support we received from the family of our deceased recipient.

‘Thanks to them, we have been able to gain critical insight into xenotransplantation as a hopeful solution to the national organ shortage.’

The team ‘knocked out’ the single gene that encodes the biomolecule known as alpha-gal-which has been identified as responsible for a rapid rejection of pig organs by humans.

Additionally, the pig’s thymus gland, which is responsible for educating the immune system, was fused with the pig kidney to stave off novel, delayed immune responses.

The genetically engineered organ worked fine for a month before the body began to reject it.

But alerted to this, the team gave Mr Miller standard anti-rejection medication and the organ bounced back, looking healthy and normal when it was removed.

Dr Robert Montgomery (pictured), who carried out the surgery, was himself the recipient of a heart transplant

Dr Robert Montgomery (pictured), who carried out the surgery, was himself the recipient of a heart transplant

Dr Robert Montgomery (pictured), who carried out the surgery, was himself the recipient of a heart transplant

Jeffrey Stern (left) and Robert Montgomery (right) examine the pig kidney moments after blood flow is restored to the organ on July 14

Jeffrey Stern (left) and Robert Montgomery (right) examine the pig kidney moments after blood flow is restored to the organ on July 14

Jeffrey Stern (left) and Robert Montgomery (right) examine the pig kidney moments after blood flow is restored to the organ on July 14

While previous genetically engineered pig organ transplants have incorporated up to 10 genetic modifications, this latest study shows that a single-gene knockout pig kidney can perform optimally after two months.

Tissue collected during the study indicated some novel cellular changes that surgeons had not previously observed, indicating a mild rejection process that required intensifying immunosuppression medication in order to reverse it completely.

Dr Montgomery added: ‘In order to create a sustainable unlimited supply of organs, we need to know how to manage pig organs transplanted into humans.

‘Testing them in a decedent allows us to optimise the immunosuppression regimen and choice of gene edits without putting a living patient at risk.’

Researchers took about 180 different tissue samples from every major organ such as lymph nodes and the digestive tractto look for any hidden problems due to the xenotransplant.

Dr Montgomery performed the world’s first genetically modified pig kidney transplant into a human on September 25, 2021.

That was followed by a second similar procedure on November 22, 2021.

Surgeons at NYU Langone then performed two genetically engineered pig heart transplants in summer 2022.

Source

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