Breakthrough in Pig-to-Human Kidney Transplants

Breakthrough in Pig-to-Human Kidney Transplants

Genetically Engineered Pig Kidneys Show Promise in Human Transplants

Pig Kidney Transplant Image Source: HealthDay Reporter

Genetically engineered pig kidneys are poised to revolutionize organ transplants, providing a sustainable solution for patients awaiting a transplant. Recent studies conducted at NYU Langone Health in New York City and the University of Alabama at Birmingham have shown promising results, with gene-edited pig kidneys surviving and functioning in a human body for an extended period of time.

Pigs to the Rescue

The NYU Langone study involved a lightly modified pig kidney that continued to function for over a month in a brain-dead human donor. Dr. Robert Montgomery, Director of the NYU Langone Transplant Institute, described this as the longest duration a gene-edited pig kidney has survived and functioned in a human body. The study also utilized pig kidneys bred by Revivicor Inc., a subsidiary of United Therapeutics Corporation. These pigs were genetically modified to block the alpha-gal gene responsible for the most severe immune response to transplanted animal organs.

In a separate study at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, heavily manipulated gene-edited pig kidneys provided seven days of life-sustaining functions in a brain-dead donor. The kidneys functioned as they would in a living human, efficiently filtering urine throughout the weeklong study. Immune-suppressing drugs were used in both studies to prevent organ rejection.

A Solution to the Organ Shortage Crisis

The results of these studies have led researchers to advocate for human clinical trials of modified pig kidneys. Dr. Jayme Locke, Director of UAB’s Comprehensive Transplant Institute, expressed the urgent need for a solution to the organ shortage crisis responsible for tens of thousands of preventable deaths each year. In the United States alone, nearly 88,000 people are on the waiting list for a kidney transplant, with a staggering 808,000 individuals suffering from end-stage renal disease. Unfortunately, only a fraction of those on the waiting list will receive a transplant due to limited organ availability.

Transplantation is currently the gold standard treatment for end-stage kidney disease, with less than 25,000 kidney transplants performed annually in the US. The potential for an unlimited supply of pig kidneys for transplant could significantly reduce mortality rates and improve quality of life for patients currently relying on dialysis.

The Future of Pig Kidney Transplants

The success of these studies marks a pivotal breakthrough in the field of organ transplantation. Previous studies in 2021 and 2022 showed that gene-edited pig kidneys could survive for two to three days in a brain-dead human body. The new research aimed to determine whether the kidneys would avoid long-term rejection by the human adaptive immune system, which generally occurs 10 to 14 days after encountering foreign tissue.

One of the key factors contributing to the success of these transplants is the single genetic modification performed on the pigs. Compared to earlier engineered pig organs that required multiple gene edits, kidneys appear to require fewer alterations to be accepted by the human immune system. This simplifies the genetic engineering process, making it easier to scale up production and provide a more abundant supply of kidneys for patients in need.

A Journey Towards Clinical Trials

These groundbreaking studies have set the stage for future human trials of genetically modified pig kidneys. Both teams of researchers anticipate that Phase I clinical trials in living humans will soon begin following the successful outcomes of their studies. The long-term safety and efficacy of these organs in humans remain a priority, but the promising results provide a ray of hope for patients on the organ transplant waiting list.

As the research progresses, experts believe that the availability of pig kidneys for transplantation could revolutionize the field of organ transplantation and save countless lives. The ongoing shortage of donor organs has tremendous societal and human consequences, and the introduction of this new solution holds the potential to change the lives of thousands of patients suffering from end-stage kidney disease.

The future of organ transplantation is rapidly evolving, with genetically engineered pig kidneys leading the way as a safe and sustainable option for those in need. The continuous advancements in genetic engineering and the positive outcomes of these studies provide an optimistic outlook, promising a brighter future for patients awaiting life-saving transplants.

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Slightly adapted and rewritten from the original source: HealthDay Reporter