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Sunday, May 26, 2024

Breakthrough Kidney Transplant from Genetically Modified Pig Saves Severely Ill Patient’s Life

In a landmark medical achievement, surgeons at NYU Langone Health in New York successfully conducted a kidney transplant from a genetically modified pig into a severely ill 54-year-old woman earlier this month. This groundbreaking procedure marks the second instance of such a transplant, offering hope to patients with advanced organ failure.

The recipient, Lisa Pisano, a native of New Jersey, was facing both heart and kidney failure, making her a high-risk candidate for traditional organ transplantation. However, with the assistance of a mechanical heart pump, Pisano became eligible for the innovative procedure.

The kidney used in the transplant was obtained from a genetically engineered pig provided by United Therapeutics Corporation, a biotech company. This pig had a specific gene, responsible for producing a sugar called alpha-gal, modified or “knocked out.” Studies conducted at NYU Langone Health had shown that removing this gene significantly reduced the risk of severe immune reactions in patients, mitigating the chances of immediate organ rejection, a common concern in xenotransplantation.

To further enhance the success of the transplant, surgeons at NYU Langone also implanted the pig’s thymus gland alongside the kidney. This gland plays a crucial role in reprogramming the recipient’s immune system, minimizing the risk of rejection and improving the chances of long-term organ acceptance.

The swift succession of surgeries, including the implantation of the mechanical heart pump followed by the kidney transplant, highlights the multidisciplinary approach taken by the medical team at NYU Langone. Dr. Nader Moazami, chief of the division of heart and lung transplantation, described the series of procedures as highly unusual, if not unprecedented, particularly in a patient with kidney failure.

Lisa Pisano expressed her gratitude for the opportunity to receive the life-saving treatment, acknowledging that without it, she might not have had much time left. Facing the reality of her condition and the scarcity of human organs for transplantation, Pisano embraced the chance to undergo a gene-edited pig kidney transplant, eager to spend more time with her family and witness her grandchildren grow up.

The success of this procedure adds to the growing body of evidence supporting the potential of xenotransplantation as a viable solution for patients with end-stage organ failure. Under the compassionate use program of the Food and Drug Administration, NYU Langone’s Institutional Review Board approved the experimental transplant, underscoring the urgency and severity of Pisano’s condition.

The success of Lisa Pisano’s transplant represents a significant milestone in the field of organ transplantation, offering hope to countless patients awaiting life-saving procedures. As medical advancements continue to push the boundaries of what is possible, stories like Pisano’s serve as a beacon of hope for those in need of organ transplants worldwide.

Jonathan James
Jonathan James
I serve as a Senior Executive Journalist of The National Era
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