By Nathan L. Walls

Mass. man receives first genetically-modified pig kidney transplant

Rob Stein reporting for NPR:

For the first time, surgeons have transplanted a kidney from a genetically modified pig into a living person, doctors in Boston said Thursday.

Richard Slayman, 62, of Weymouth, Mass., who is suffering from end-stage kidney disease, received the organ Saturday in a four-hour procedure, Massachusetts General Hospital announced. He is recovering well and is expected to be discharged Saturday, the hospital said.

Unless kidney transplant candidates have a living donor, there is typically a years-long backlog for a deceased-donor kidney. As in Slayman’s case, it is possible for a first transplanted kidney to also fail and require a return to dialysis and a second, or sometimes third donor kidney.

The medical science to allow for transplantation of a kidney from genetically modified pigs is a hoped for way to ameliorate the backlog. Closing the gap also potentially means that more people could potentially qualify for transplant.

End-stage renal disease is 3.8 times more common among Black people than white people in the U.S., according to federal statistics.

The transplant “represents a potential breakthrough in solving one of the more intractable problems in our field, that being unequal access for ethnic minority patients to the opportunity for kidney transplants due to the extreme donor organ shortage and other system-based barriers,” said Dr. Winfred Williams, the kidney specialist treating Slayman, who is a Black man.

First and foremost, I wish every kidney transplant candidate could and would match with a living donor. Second, I wish everyone able and willing to designate themselves a posthumous organ donor would do so. Third, I hope for animal organs to be made available thoughtfully and safely, and with the welfare of the animals raised to be donors provided for at the highest level of care.