Written by By Rachael Irby, CNN
The first human pig kidney transplant has been successfully performed after a 54-year-old Maryland woman received a donor kidney from a live pig, with the kidney successfully transplanted into her during surgery.
This is the first time a kidney from a live pig has been successfully transplanted in humans, and researchers from the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) believe the procedure could offer a number of advantages, including cutting down on both medical and ethical risks of surgery.
“Our kidney recipient is a healthy 54-year-old woman. Her condition had become so bad that the predicted survival for ten years was less than one year,” study researcher David Galil told the media in a statement.
The recipient was infected with sepsis and had developed bone infections that threatened to rupture her heart valve. “This unfortunate situation could have been disastrous,” said study researcher David Galil.
“After the surgery, we started a drug that protects kidney cells from infection. We found that the transplant resulted in less than a single infection in her blood. This was critical for the survival of the kidney.”
According to the study, human donors and recipients, both of whom remained healthy in after-surgical observation, showed high levels of “plastinocyte-derived phenylethylamine, or PTS,” a protein that travels to the wound and starts to promote the healing of wound-healing tissue.
The pig’s donor kidney will also undergo long-term testing, after which researchers hope to transfer pig organs from donors to other patients.
“This research supports the idea that we can improve the success of a kidney transplant by taking advantage of certain differences between living and dead donors,” said Galil.
“For example, living donors will have a significantly greater chance of surviving transplantation into their recipient than dead donors would have.”
This study, which will be published in the Annals of Surgery on October 7, follows a study released earlier this year showing that pig kidneys as an effective donor for human patients.