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Pig kidney transplant patient leaves hospital

The first patient to receive a kidney transplanted from a genetically modified pig has been discharged from hospital.

Richard “Rick” Slayman received the organ in March in a world first after undergoing a four-hour surgery at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in Boston.

The 62-year-old suffers from end-stage renal failure, a chronic disease where the kidneys can no longer function on their own.

“This moment – leaving the hospital today with one of the cleanest bills of health I’ve had in a long time – is one I wished would come for many years,” he said in a statement on Wednesday.

“Now, it’s a reality and one of the happiest moments of my life.”

Rick Slayman in his hospital room at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Pic:Michelle Rose/Massachusetts General Hospital
Mr Slayman thanked well-wishers. Pic: Michelle Rose/Massachusetts General Hospital

He thanked all the medical staff involved and who have cared for him – before and after – his “historic transplant”.

He added: “I’m excited to resume spending time with my family, friends, and loved ones free from the burden of dialysis that has affected my quality of life for many years.

“I want to thank anyone who has seen my story and sent well-wishes, especially patients waiting for a kidney transplant. Today marks a new beginning not just for me, but for them, as well.”

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“It was such a joyful day for all of us,” Dr Leonardo Riella, the hospital’s medical director for kidney transplantation, told NBC10 Boston.

The successful surgery has spurred hopes transplants from animals to humans – xenotransplantation – could address the global shortage of donor organs.

“Unfortunately, there are not enough kidneys out there,” he said, for the thousands of patients in need.

“This would be a huge hope for them to receive a kidney in a timely manner before they get too sick to actually get a kidney transplant – which is the best treatment for kidney disease.”

The kidney Mr Slayman received was modified by Massachusetts-based firm eGenesis.

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It was genetically-edited using technology to remove harmful pig genes and add certain human genes to improve its compatibility with humans.

Researchers have been trying since the early 2000s to genetically modify pigs in a way that reduces the chance of the transplant being rejected by the human immune system.

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According to the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), more than 100,000 people in the US are waiting for an organ transplant. Data also shows around 17 people die each day waiting, with a kidney the most common organ needed for transplant.

More than 5,200 patients are on the kidney-transplant waiting list in the UK – exceeding the 3,300 transplants that are carried out each year, according to charity Kidney Research.


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