In a groundbreaking development, a genetically modified pig kidney transplanted into a brain-dead patient over a month ago has demonstrated normal functionality, according to researchers. The procedure was conducted by a team of surgeons in New York on July 14, and the kidney’s performance is being tracked for a second consecutive month. This represents the longest period in which a gene-edited pig kidney has functioned successfully in a human body.

Dr Robert Montgomery, director of NYU Langone’s transplant institute, expressed optimism about the outcome, stating, “Is this organ really going to work like a human organ? So far it’s looking like it is.” The patient who received the transplanted pig kidney, Maurice “Mo” Miller, had died suddenly at the age of 57 with an undiagnosed brain cancer, precluding routine organ donation. His family’s decision to donate his body for research aimed at utilising pig kidneys to address organ shortages marked a significant contribution to medical science.

Dr Montgomery replaced Miller’s kidneys with a single kidney from a genetically modified pig, observing its immediate production of urine. Similar successful outcomes were reported in a separate study by researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). In this study, genetically modified pig kidneys were transplanted into a 52-year-old man with high blood pressure and chronic kidney disease, and they functioned as expected within minutes of the procedure. These findings have been peer-reviewed and published in the Jama Surgery journal.

Jayme Locke, director of UAB’s Heersink School of Medicine, emphasized the significance of these studies in addressing the organ shortage crisis responsible for preventable deaths. She mentioned that the research gathered critical safety and scientific information, contributing to the efforts to seek FDA clearance for Phase I clinical trials involving living humans. These studies build upon earlier research, indicating the progress made in the field of pig-to-human kidney transplants, potentially offering a solution to the ongoing organ shortage crisis.