A team of scientists from NYU Langone Health has effectively transplanted a working pig kidney into a human body and has found that it has been working normally. Health experts have said that it is a small step in the decades-long pursuit that someday animal organs can be used to save the lives of patients who have been waiting for organ donors for transplants. Pigs have been the prime focus of recent studies where scientists have tried to address the issue of organ shortage. However, they have been a number of hurdles in using pigs’ organs for transplants. Health experts have said that a type of sugar found in pig cells that is a foreign element to the human body can lead to immediate organ rejection. That is the reason; the head of the NYU Langone Transplant Institute, Dr. Robert Montgomery, and his surgical team has conducted the transplant with a genetically modified pig kidney. Dr. Robert Montgomery has said that genetic modification of the animal kidney is needed to eradicate the sugar found in pig cells and to prevent an immune system attack. The team of surgeons has attached the pig kidney to a pair of large blood vessels in the leg of the dead patient whose body has been kept on a ventilator. Scientists have done so that they can observe their experimental transplant for two days. The team of surgeons has found that the pig kidney has been working fine and has effectively filtered waste and produced urine. Health experts have said that the success of this experiment has paved the way for doctors to use pigs to help bridge the gap in the accessibility of healthy organs for patients who are in need of life-saving transplants. Scientists have said that the experiment has been successful, as the body has not rejected the organ.
The lead scientist Dr. Robert Montgomery has said that the pig kidney has exhibited absolutely normal function and the body has not immediately rejected the organ, which they have been worried about. The experiment has been done last month and led by Dr. Robert Montgomery. Dr. Andrew Adams from the University of Minnesota Medical School, who has not been involved in the study, has said that the findings of the experiment are quite encouraging. He has said that the research reassured patients, scientists, and regulatory authorities that they are moving forward in the right direction. As per the current data, nearly half of all patients who are in need of transplants and waiting for donors turn too sick or lose their lives before an organ donor is available. Dr. Robert Montgomery has claimed that the demand for transplants will always go beyond the supply of healthy human organs. He has said that if human organs are considered the fossil fuel of the organ supply, pig organs are like wind and solar energy, sustainable and infinite. Health experts have said that the vision for an animal-to-human transplant that is also known as xenotransplantation has been conceived in the 17th century as scientists have attempted to use animal blood for transfusions. In the 20th century, scientists have tried their hands on transplants of organs from baboons into humans particularly for baby Fae, a dying infant who has been able to live for 21 days with a baboon heart. As these attempts have garnered no major success and public interest, scientists have turned their focus from primates to pigs. Experts have said that pigs have some more advantages as compared to monkeys and apes. Pigs are produced for food, therefore there are no ethical concerns regarding using them to increase organ supply. Pigs are found with large litters, short gestation periods, and they have organs comparable to humans.
Scientists have successfully used pig heart valves in humans for decades. Health experts have informed that the blood thinner heparin is extracted from pig intestines. Experts have used skin grafts of pigs on burns and Chinese experts have been able to restore sight with the help of pig corneas. In the past, many experiments on cross-species surgery have resulted in organ rejection as human antibodies have attacked an alien organ. Experts have removed the sugar molecule known as Alpha-gal that is found in pig cells with the help of genetic editing. Many biotech firms as well are trying to develop appropriate pig organs for transplant that can help reduce the shortage of human organs. The officials from the US government have said that there are more than 90000 people who are on the waiting list for a kidney transplant. Around 12 of them lose their lives each day while waiting for suitable donors. The findings of the new study are a triumph for Revivicor, which is a subsidiary of a firm known as United Therapeutics that has modified and raised a herd of 100 pigs in extremely controlled conditions at a facility in Iowa.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized gene alteration in pigs from Revivicor and has said that it is safe for human food consumption and medicine. However, the officials of the FDA have said that the company requires to present more paperwork before transplants of pig organs into living humans. The chief of United Therapeutics, Martine Rothblatt has said that this is a crucial way forward in acknowledging the potential of xenotransplantation that can save thousands of lives in the future. A researcher from the Hastings Center, Karen Maschke has said that raising pigs to be organ donors might sound unethical to some people, but it will be more acceptable if issues about animal welfare are addressed properly. Karen Maschke is going to draft ethics and policy proposals for the first clinical experiments that will be funded by the National Institutes of Health. Other health experts have said that tests on non-human primates and the findings of this test on a human body have shown a way forward for the first tentative pig kidney or heart transplants into living human beings.
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