The first attempt to transplant a pig kidney into a human has been carried out by surgeons in the United States.
The operation, at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore, is part of an experimental program aimed at overcoming the rejection of transplanted organs by genetically modifying pigs so their organs are more compatible with humans.
The kidney was grown from stem cells harvested from a pig’s kidneys and then used to grow new organs in an incubator.
The research team has been working on this technology since 2002 when they removed one of their patient’s failing kidneys and replaced it with a healthy human kidney that had been donated by his father.
The kidney transplant process
A kidney transplant is a surgical operation in which the kidneys of patients whose kidneys have stopped working are replaced with those from a donor.
It is a procedure used to treat chronic kidney failure or end-stage renal disease.
In 1954, identical twins had the first successful human kidney transplant.
Kidney transplants are considered organ transplants, and the donor’s kidney is surgically removed and transplanted into the recipient.
Depending on how many organs are being transplanted at the same time, the procedure takes roughly two hours on average.
How a pig’s kidney works in a human body
There is a lot to learn about the kidneys and how they work in the human body.
The kidneys not only filter waste from our blood, but they also help out with hormone production and red blood cell production as well.
They are essential for maintaining homeostasis within the body.
The kidneys are part of the urinary system, which is responsible for removing waste products from the blood and producing urine.
The kidneys perform a number of other functions, including balancing chemicals in the blood and controlling the levels of water and salts.
The function of the transplanted kidney was tested and found to be “quite typical,” according to transplant physician Robert Montgomery, who conducted the study.
According to him, the kidney produced “the volume of pee that you would anticipate” from a transplanted human kidney, and there was no sign of the robust early rejection found in non-human primates when unaltered pig kidneys were implanted.
The success of the first test
According to APA, which cites the BBC, US doctors have successfully transplanted a pig’s kidney into a human, a feat that they believe may eventually ease donor organ shortages.
The receiver was brain-dead, which meant they were already on life support and had little chance of recovering.
The kidney originated from a pig that had been genetically engineered to prevent the organ from being rejected by the body because it was “foreign.”
The work has not yet been peer-reviewed or published, but it is in the works. It is, according to experts, the most advanced experiment in the sector to date.
To date, similar tests have only been conducted on nonhuman primates, not humans. However, using pigs for transplants is not a novel concept. Humans have been using pig heart valves for a long time.
In terms of size, their organs are an excellent fit for people.
During the two-hour procedure at New York University Langone Health, doctors linked the donor pig kidney to the brain-dead recipient’s blood arteries to test if it would work normally or be rejected once piped in.
Why pigs make great organ donors
Scientists are now cloning pigs to grow organs for humans. The first experiments have already taken place, but some experts are worried about the future of this type of research.
Many countries forbid human cloning, so scientists have had to find another way around it.
They figured out how to clone pigs and harvest their organs instead.
Pig lungs and hearts were successfully transplanted into baboons before they died from unrelated causes. Now the researchers want to expand their work and start transplanting these organs into humans as well.
Pigs and humans share many of the same organs and blood types.
A pig can basically be a “universal” donor for any human.
This means that if someone knows they need an organ transplant but is incompatible with donors, they could still get a new heart or kidney from a pig.
Many people who receive these transplants live normal lives afterward, so it’s definitely worth exploring this option.
With little permanent results and much public outcry, scientists resorted to pigs to bridge the species divide, meddling with their genomes.
Compared to primates and apes, pigs have an edge.
Because they are grown for food, utilizing them for organs has fewer ethical issues.
Pigs have large litters, short gestation periods, and organs that are similar to those seen in humans.
Human heart valves have been effectively utilized in pigs for decades.
Heparin, a blood thinner, is made from the intestines of pigs.
Burns are treated with pigskin grafts, and Chinese surgeons have utilized pig corneas to restore vision.
The ethical considerations of pig kidney transplant in human patients is a real and fresh issue.
The case of the first successful human-to-human renal xenotransplantation, which used a baboon liver and kidney transplant to replace the patient’s failing liver and right kidney, was reported in 2011.
The medical community has been struggling with this issue for years now.
However, there are still no clear rules about it that would explain what doctors can do and what they should not do at all costs.
Some say that xenotransplantation could be an excellent way to save lives, but others argue that it won’t.
To wrap things up
The milestone comes as the Trump administration and U.S. lawmakers already are grappling with contentious issues such as repealing and replacing Obamacare, tax reform, the proposed border wall, and a major infrastructure spending package.
The team is currently working on a larger, Phase 3 trial that will determine whether the pig organs are safe for patients to receive.