- The kidney was observed in the body of Maurice Miller, 58, for 61 days.
A pig kidney has been transplanted into a brain-dead man, where he survived for two months, in a breakthrough for the future of organ transplant surgeries.
The genetically modified kidney was observed in the body of Maurice Miller, 58, for 61 days before being removed, taken off life support and the body returned to the family.
The study, the longest documented case of its kind, offers new hope for the future of supplying organs to those desperately in need of a transplant.
It was the fifth xenotransplantation performed by the NYU Langone Transplant Institute team, which took place on July 14.
Mr. Miller, who had been on a ventilator, was taken off on September 13 with his family’s consent after being declared brain dead. He had collapsed but because he suffered from cancer he could not donate his organs.
A pig kidney has been transplanted into the body of 58-year-old Maurice Miller (pictured), who is brain dead and survived for two months.
The genetically modified kidney (pictured) was observed in Mr Miller’s body for 61 days before being removed.
Dr. Robert Montgomery, who performed the surgery, also received a heart transplant.
He said: “We have learned a lot over these last 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 insights into xenotransplantation as a hopeful solution to the nationwide organ shortage.”
The team “knocked out” the single gene that encodes the biomolecule known as alpha-gal, which has been identified as responsible for the 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’s kidney to prevent further delayed immune responses.
The genetically modified organ worked well 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 recovered, looking healthy and normal when it was removed.
Dr. Robert Montgomery (pictured), who performed the surgery, also received a heart transplant.
Jeffrey Stern (left) and Robert Montgomery (right) examine the pig kidney moments after blood flow to the organ is restored on July 14.
While previous transplants of genetically modified pig organs have incorporated up to 10 genetic modifications, this latest study shows that a pig kidney with a single gene knockout can function 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 immunosuppressive medication to completely reverse it.
Dr Montgomery added: “To create an unlimited and sustainable supply of organs, we need to know how to manage pig organs transplanted into humans.
“Testing them on a deceased person allows us to optimize the immunosuppression regimen and the choice of genetic edits without putting a living patient at risk.”
The researchers took around 180 different tissue samples from all major organs, such as lymph nodes and the digestive tract, to look for hidden problems due to xenotransplantation.
Dr. Montgomery performed the first genetically modified pig kidney transplant into a human on September 25, 2021.
This was followed by a second similar procedure on November 22, 2021.
NYU Langone surgeons then performed two genetically modified pig heart transplants in the summer of 2022.