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A Pig's Kidney in a Human Seems to Work: A Ray of Hope for Organ Transplants

Updated
Health News
2 min read
A Pig's Kidney in a Human Seems to Work: A Ray of Hope for Organ Transplants

A kidney grown in a genetically altered pig has been 'attached' into a human in a rare surgery, reports The New York Times.

The surgery is being hailed as a scientific breakthrough that may open up potential new source for organ transplants.

The kidney was attached to a brain dead patient who was followed for only 54 hours. The kidney seemed to work. While it will be crucial to see how long such an organ can continue to work, it's still an exciting scientific experiment.

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The surgery took place at NYU Langone Health. It's important to note that the results are yet to be peer reviewed or published.

There is a long wait for patients of kidney failure and in India, finding a donor is difficult. That means living on dialysis while you wait for a match.

Xenotransplants: Sketchy History

A pig was genetically engineered to grow an kidney for the human body. It was then attached to the blood vessels in the upper leg outside the abdomen of a brain dead patient on a ventilator.

It worked. The kidney functioned, produced urine and the waste product called creatinine, reports NYTimes.

While the organ was not transplanted inside the body, the fact that it worked indicates it would have performed the function inside the body as well. Xenotransplantation is the process of grafting or transplanting organs or tissues between different species.

There's been a mixed response to the news with some surgeons widely optimistic. Genetically engineering pigs to harvest their organs though could raise ethical issues.

While there is a history of xenotransplants, most have resulted in failure.

Chimpanzee kidneys were transplanted into humans in the 1960s, when most resulted in death.

A major breakthrough occurred in1983 when a baboon heart was transplanted into an infant girl. She didn't make it past 20 days.

Experts believe pigs work better than primates since they are easier to raise and can grow quickly to human size.

Pig heart valves are often used in transplants and pig pancreas cells have been used in diabetic patients.

So far, such transplants have taken place between pigs and primates. This would be the first such successful transplant in a human.

A Pig's Heart Was Transplanted by a Doctor in India

In 1997, Dr Dhani Ram Baruah, a transplant surgeon from Assam, had transplanted a pig’s heart into a 32-year-old man called Purno Sakia. The patient died in 7 days and Dr Baruah was arrested. The patient had a hole in the heart and died a week later due to multiple infections. The survival period considered safe for human trials for xenotransplantation is 90 days.

Experts believe pigs work better than primates since they are easier to raise and can grow quickly to human size.

Pig heart valves are often used in transplants and pig pancreas cells have been used in diabetic patients.

(With inputs from The New York Times)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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