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Inside how kidneys from genetically-engineered pigs are being successfully transplanted into human bodies

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A NEW type of organ transplant has been successfully completed twice by New York University Langone Health using kidneys from a genetically-engineered animal.

The medical center says they completed two xenotransplantations, or taking an organ from one species and transplanting it into another. 

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Two xenotransplantations by NYU Langone Health have been successfully completed, although on deceased patients kept alive on ventilators[/caption]

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A kidney from a genetically-engineered pig was transplanted into a human body without any problems of organ rejection[/caption]

A kidney from a genetically-engineered pig was able to be transplanted into a human body without suffering from rejection.

Both of the recipients were already deceased, with their bodies being kept alive with a ventilator, according to Dr. Robert Montgomery.

Still, the two surgeries showed that a specially designed kidney from a different species could provide life-saving organs to those in need. 

“We have been able to replicate the results from the first transformative procedure to demonstrate the continued promise that these genetically engineered organs could be a renewable source of organs to the many people in the world d swaying a life-saving gift,” said Montgomery. 

“There is much more work to do before we begin living human trials, but our preliminary findings give us hope.”

Kidneys are the organs most commonly transplanted into patients each year but the people who need them often face long waiting lists as hospitals look for compatible donors.


Donors and health officials have been looking for alternatives to remedy the situation. Researchers at the Keck School of Medicine of USC discovered the possibility of synthetic organs.

Basic kidney structures, called organoids, were generated by stem cell scientists that work similarly to normal kidneys. 

“Our progress in creating new types of kidney organoids provides powerful tools for not only understanding development and disease but also finding new treatments and regenerative approaches for patients, said assistant professor of medicine Zhongwei Li.

WHY WERE THE ORGANS NOT REJECTED?

At NYU, scientists genetically modified the pig kidney to remove the alpha-gal gene that triggers the antibody rejection of pig organs by humans. 

The gland allows the immune system to make white blood cells and fight off infections. 

This was done before the procedures on September 25 and November 22 respectively. 

Dr. Montgomery and his team attached the kidney to the human patient’s upper leg, near the abdomen. For the next 54 hours, they monitored the kidney’s urine production and creatinine levels to see if it was working properly. 

The results showed that the kidney was functioning the same way doctors would expect a normal kidney to do after a transplant. There were also no signs of rejection following the procedures.

“We continue to make progress with the single-gene knockout xenotransplantation,” said Montgomery.

He added that with more study and replication, “this could be the path forward to saving many thousands of lives each year.”

SACRIFICE COULD MEAN HOPE

The bodies used in the procedures were donated by LiveOnNY, a nonprofit that facilitates organ and tissue donation in New York. 

The organization donates the bodies on the behalf of families who allow scientists to use their loved one’s bodies for research. 

Over 90,000 people in the United States are currently waiting for kidney transplants, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing. 

“This is a transformative moment in organ transplantation,” said Montgomery. “The medical and scientific communities have been working toward xenotransplantation to sustain human life for more than 50 years.

“There have been many hurdles along the way, but our most recent procedure significantly moves these endeavors forward. This research provides new hope for an unlimited supply of organs, a potential game-changer for the field of transplantation and those now dying for want of an organ.”

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Over 90,000 people in the US are waiting for kidney transplants[/caption]

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Scientists were able to remove the alpha-gal gene from the pig’s kidneys to stop organ rejection when transplanted into humans[/caption]

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