Kidney transplants from genetically modified pigs could save thousands of human lives

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A genetically modified pig kidney is prepared to be transplanted into a human donor. (PICTURE: Gallo/ AFP)
A genetically modified pig kidney is prepared to be transplanted into a human donor. (PICTURE: Gallo/ AFP)

It's been a dream of surgeons for centuries: transplanting organs from animals to humans and changing the course of history. Yet for hundreds of years it has eluded medical science’s brightest brains – the human body rejected the animal’s organs almost instantly. Until now.

Doctors in New York recently performed a breakthrough surgery, transplanting a pig’s kidney into a human without triggering rejection by the immune system. The experimental transplant is a potentially giant leap forward for medical science and could make a huge difference to the global shortage of organs needed by transplant patients. 

The revolutionary transplant surgery was performed at New York University Langone Health by a team led by transplant surgeon Dr Robert Montgomery – himself the recipient of a donor heart. The pig kidney was attached to the recipient’s blood vessels outside her body, allowing researchers easy access to it. The kidney function “looked pretty normal,” Dr Montgomery said. 

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