WASHINGTON — The first pig kidney transplant to be conducted in the United States was successfully performed in a Maryland hospital last year, according to a new report in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The donor kidney came from a woman who lived in San Jose, Calif., and who had been diagnosed with renal failure about seven years earlier. In addition to the kidney transplant, the woman had successful kidney dialysis and received a donor pancreas, part of her liver and other support organs.
Blood tests and imaging techniques confirmed that the kidney had a healthy, normal biochemistry and was not infected by a virus or a bacterial organism, the authors wrote.
The benefits of pig organs in the transplantation of humans include that their ureters, which help move fluid from the kidney to the bladder, are clearly defined in pig cells, meaning that they would help surgeons to simplify and quickly remove each kidney in a spinal surgery.
But don’t rush to sign up just yet. The procedure required a 32-hour surgery and the team hadn’t performed a pig kidney transplant previously.
The study team, led by John G. Avey, M.D., in the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, concluded that the early success of this first transplant shows the value of study and further research to find a way to transplant organs from pigs without a donor’s explicit consent and without receiving information about the donor’s health or whether the donor has other health problems.