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First Ever Genetically Modified Pig-to-Human Kidney Transplant Successfully Completed

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Specialists at the University of Alabama at Birmingham are optimistic that new peer-reviewed research will help dramatically reduce the massive organ shortage.
Specialists at the University of Alabama at Birmingham have, for the first time, successfully transplanted pig kidneys into a human patient. The xenotransplantation was performed on September 30,2021, at UAB Hospital. Today, the first peer-reviewed research was published in the American Journal of Transplantation. Xenotransplantation refers to tissues or organs being transplanted between different species. More than 800,000 Americans are living with kidney failure, according to experts at UAB. Doctors from UAB told Newsweek that the procedure consisted of transplanting two genetically-modified pig kidneys into the abdomen of a brain-dead human patient named Jim Parsons,57, who was involved in a dirt bike accident. Parsons’ native kidneys were removed and the kidneys of the pig from a pathogen-free facility were inserted. Pigs are viewed as promising animals in kidney transplant procedures because of their rapid ability to reproduce. Dr. Jayme Locke was one of the surgeons who performed the groundbreaking procedure. She is the director of UAB’s Division of Transplantation, as well as director of the UAB Comprehensive Transplant Institute. She told Newsweek that the peer-reviewed research was published today, months after the procedure was conducted because experts collected various data. “The significance of this study is multi-factorial,” she said. “A lot of progress has been made in xenotransplantation, but specific questions in the model needed to be answered.” Some of those primary questions asked whether there would be a hyper-acute or immediate reaction to the pig organ within minutes, which there was not; whether a pre-clinical test or crossmatch would identify compatibility, which it did; whether a life-threatening complication would occur during xenotransplantation, of which it did not; whether any pathogens would be discovered in the human patient’s blood, which there were none; and whether the pig kidney xenotransplantation could be safely performed under necessary conditions for clinical trial, which they were.

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