American surgeons have performed a revolutionary operation. They were able to transplant a kidney from a pig into a human for the first time. This is a sensational event, because there is a huge shortage of organs, especially the kidneys, all over the world. If pig kidneys were transplanted to people around the world, it would solve the problem of organ shortages and the long waiting lists for organs would suddenly be reduced.

Great progress in organ transplantation

The operation took place at the Langone Health Medical Center in New York University and lasted two hours. The operation was performed on a man with a dead brain who had no prospect of recovery. The recipient of the organ was connected and artificial life support. This whole experiment is the most advanced operation in this area so far. The transplanted kidney was removed from a pig that had been genetically engineered so that its organ in the human body would not be recognized as foreign. So there was no chance that the human body would reject this organ. Surgeons attached the kidney to the recipient’s blood vessels to see if it would work properly. The kidney was then closely monitored for two and a half days, during which time a series of tests were performed.

The human body received a kidney from a pig successfully

The lead researcher, Dr Robert Montgomery, said the operation was as if it were a human kidney transplant. The kidney was fully compatible and well received by the body. Along with the kidney, surgeons transplanted a piece of pig thymus. This organ could prevent kidney rejection and the human body would no longer have to fight pig tissue. The US FDA has approved the use of genetically modified pig organs for transplantation. The whole research is in its infancy, and Dr. Montgomery thinks that in ten years, it will be possible to transplant other organs from pigs, such as the heart, lungs, and liver.

Pigs as the best source of organs

Pigs have been used in transplantation for a long time, especially for heart valve transplantation. From pigs, corneal transplants are also used. The advantage of pig organs is their size, which is similar to human organs. Of all non-terrestrial mammals, pig organs are the most compatible for humans. Transplantation of animal organs into the human body is called xenotransplantation.

Dr. Montgomery is one of the people who has had a heart transplant. He wanted to disprove the paradigm that someone must die in order for someone else to live. According to him, 40% of patients die before they receive a suitable organ for transplantation. Pigs are used as a food source, they could also become an important source of vital organs.

Credit: Langone Health Medical Center