May 25, 2024

The first recipient of a genetically modified pig kidney transplant died about two months later, with the hospital that performed the operation saying it had no indication the transplant was the cause.

Richard “Rick” Slayman had the transplant at Massachusetts General Hospital in March at the age of 62. Surgeons said they believe the pig kidney will last for at least two years. On Saturday, his family and the hospital that performed the surgery confirmed Slayman’s death.

The transplant team at Massachusetts General Hospital said in a statement that they are deeply saddened and extend their condolences to his family.

Slayman was the first living person to undergo the procedure. Previously, pig kidneys were temporarily transplanted into brain-dead recipients as an experiment. Two men received heart transplants from pigs, although both died after several months.

Slayman had a kidney transplant at the hospital in 2018, but had to go back on dialysis last year when it showed signs of failure. When dialysis complications arose that required frequent procedures, his doctors suggested the pig kidney transplant.

In a statement, Slayman’s family thanked his doctors. “Their enormous efforts leading up to the xenotransplant gave our family another seven weeks with Rick, and our memories made during that time will live on in our minds and hearts,” the statement read.

They said Slayman underwent the surgery in part to give hope to the thousands of people who need a transplant to survive. “Rick achieved that goal and his hope and optimism will continue forever.”

In April, New Jersey woman Lisa Pisano also received a genetically modified pig kidney as well as a mechanical pump to make her heart beat.

Xenotransplantation refers to the healing of human patients with cells, tissues or organs from animals. Such attempts have long failed because the human immune system immediately destroyed foreign animal tissue. Recent efforts have involved pigs that have been modified so that their organs are more like those of humans.

With Associated Press

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