US doctors have successfully inserted pig kidneys into the body of a brain-dead patient for the first time. “The transplanted kidneys filtered blood, produced urine and, importantly, were not immediately rejected,” the University of Alabama at the City of Birmingham (UAB) said today. The kidneys remained active for 77 hours before the experiment was terminated.
The dean of the college’s medical school, Selwyn Vickers, spoke of a “remarkable achievement for mankind” and an advance in the field of xenotransplantation. The term stands for the transplantation of organs from one species to another, specifically from animals to humans.
In September, doctors at New York University connected a pig kidney to a brain-dead patient. However, the kidney was attached to blood vessels on the patient’s leg and not transplanted into his body.
Potential success for donor kidneys
The kidneys of a genetically modified pig were used for the transplant. The genetic changes are intended to prevent the human body from rejecting the organs.
Recently, US doctors from the University of Maryland had successfully implanted a pig heart in a patient for the first time. This was not a brain-dead patient. The university said on January 10 the 57-year-old man was doing well three days after the procedure.
Because of the lack of human donor organs, researchers have high hopes for xenotransplantation. Heart valves from pigs and pigskin for burn victims are already being transplanted. Pigs are considered ideal donor animals because of their size, rapid growth and good breeding qualities.