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Science & Technology

Transplant of Pig Kidney Into a Human Successful So Far – Lesson

The genetically modified kidney has functioned correctly for over 30 days.

Doctors and scientists have worked diligently over the years to find ways to transplant animal organs into humans. However, the human body functions differently than animals, so some modifications are necessary to prolong the efficiency of the transplanted organs. The latest attempt involved a pig kidney and a nearly 60-year-old brain-dead patient, Maurice Miller. The pig kidney has functioned appropriately inside Mr. Miller’s body for over thirty days, and experts are thrilled. This medical breakthrough can potentially pave the way for thousands more life-saving procedures.

Why Maurice Miller?

Mr. Miller was found unresponsive in his home this past July. After careful consideration and knowing that there was nothing that doctors could do to save her brother’s life, his sister decided to donate his body to science, specifically to the animal organ transplant program.

It was not an easy decision for Maurice’s sister, Mary Miller-Duffy. But she felt that her brother would be happy to know that he could potentially help many others by allowing his body to be used for science.

“Though my brother cannot be here, I can say with confidence he would be proud of the fact in the tragedy of his death, his legacy will be helping many people live,” his sister said.

The Procedure

Once the doctors were given the go-ahead from Mary, they placed Maurice’s body on life support and prepped him for the transplant. The kidney put into Maurice’s body was altered to remove a gene responsible for the human body rejecting the organ.

Dr. Robert Montgomery, director of NYU Langone’s transplant institute, performed the procedure on Mr. Miller and is hopeful about the potential of the pig-to-human kidney transplant.

“It looks even better than a human kidney,” said Montgomery on the day of the operation. The doctor removed both of Maurice’s kidneys and replaced them with just one from a swine.

GettyImages-1492361625 pig

(Photo by Emanuele Cremaschi/Getty Images)

Once the medically modified kidney was placed inside his body, it immediately began producing urine, which was a great indication that the operation would be successful. After more than 30 days, Maurice’s body still has not rejected the kidney or contracted any form of infection or virus. He is producing urine at an average pace and is proving that these procedures can be successful and may become life-saving components for thousands of people in need.

Seemingly Endless Wait List

There are currently over 104,000 people in America on the organ donation waiting list. Approximately 17 people die daily while waiting for organ donations, and a new name is added to the list nearly every ten minutes.

Kidneys, by far, top the list as the most needed organs. These numbers illustrate how necessary it is to find alternative ways to provide organs to patients needing them and how procedures like this would be advantageous. Further monitoring, testing, and data collecting will continue to ensure the success of this operation and others like it.