Home » Kidney and thymus transplant from genetically modified pig, woman saved in the United States

Kidney and thymus transplant from genetically modified pig, woman saved in the United States

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Kidney and thymus transplant from genetically modified pig, woman saved in the United States

The fate of Lisa Pisano, 54 years old from Cookstown (New Jersey), seemed to be suffering from severe kidney failure. Today, however, he rests in a hospital bed after undergoing a delicate operation: Lisa became the second person in the world to receive a rene from a genetically modified pig, a revolutionary operation performed at NYU Langone Health. A Massachusetts man preceded the woman, receiving the first such transplant last month. Lisa’s surgery wasn’t limited to her kidney: doctors also transplanted her thymus from the same pig (to prevent the organ from being rejected) and installed a pump to support her tired heart. “I didn’t think I would have this option,” Lisa says, still in disbelief.


Lisa’s story

Lisa’s situation was particularly desperate: she suffered from diabetes, had suffered several heart attacks and was on dialysis for kidney failure. “I didn’t really have a life,” Lisa says, describing her existence before the transplant. When Pisano arrived at the hospital she was a few weeks (or perhaps a few days) away from dying. The woman could not receive a classic human organ transplant due to the other serious health problems that afflicted her, which would not have put her on any waiting list. So she jumped at the pig kidney opportunity.

The progress

This type of transplant represents a significant advance in medical research, which can help solve the problem represented by the chronic shortage of organs available for transplants. Over 103,000 people in the United States are waiting for an organ and approximately 17 die every day waiting. Dr. Robert Montgomery, who directs the Langone Transplant Institute, sees organ transplantation from pigs as a “sustainable and unlimited source of organs.”

Doubts and ethical issues

Despite the enthusiasm of some specialists, this new field of transplantation raises important ethical questions. Some experts express concerns about the risk of virus transmission from pigs to humans, the idea of ​​breeding genetically modified animals only for slaughter and subjecting critically ill patients to trials. Karen Maschke, a bioethicist at the Hastings Center, emphasizes the need for an in-depth debate about these practices. Despite the initial successes, the path towards the widespread adoption of animal organs is still long. Dr. Montgomery and other experts are calling for more research to refine the technology and ensure patient safety. Lisa, for her part, clings to the hope of spending as much time as possible with her grandchildren: “Any moment on this Earth is better than nothing.”

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In the United States, the first transplant of a genetically modified pig kidney into a living patient was performed last month. Boston surgeons have transplanted the kidney from a genetically modified pig into a 62-year-old man suffering from end-stage kidney disease. This is the first procedure of this kind: other attempts had in fact been carried out in the past but on brain-dead patients. In 2022, the first transplant of a genetically modified pig heart to a human was performed in Baltimore. His name was David Bennett Sr, 57 years old, but he only survived two months. Last year, again in the United States, a second pig heart transplant involved a 58-year-old man: however, the patient died after six weeks. One of the biggest obstacles is still avoiding organ rejection.


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