Mass General Hospital Makes Medical History with Successful Pig Kidney Transplant

Featured & Cover Mass General Hospital Makes Medical History with Successful Pig Kidney Transplant

Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), a leading institution within the Mass General Brigham health care system, has achieved a groundbreaking feat by successfully completing the world’s first genetically-edited pig kidney transplant into a 62-year-old patient suffering from end-stage kidney disease (ESKD). This milestone procedure, conducted by surgeons from the Mass General Transplant Center, took place on Saturday, March 16, marking a significant advancement in the effort to address the scarcity of organ donors.

The surgical team, led by Dr. Leonardo V. Riella, along with Dr. Tatsuo Kawai and Dr. Nahel Elias, accomplished the transplant of a genetically-edited pig kidney with 69 genomic modifications into a living recipient. This achievement underscores Mass General Brigham’s longstanding commitment to pioneering innovations in organ transplantation, building upon past milestones such as the first successful human organ transplant in 1954 and the nation’s inaugural penile transplant in 2016.

Dr. Anne Klibanski, President and CEO of Mass General Brigham, praised the institution’s dedication to advancing medical science and addressing pressing health challenges, stating, “Our clinicians continue to push the boundaries of science to improve the lives of our patients worldwide.”

Acknowledging the collaborative effort behind this achievement, Dr. David F. M. Brown, President of Academic Medical Centers at Mass General Brigham, expressed gratitude to the hospital staff involved in the successful surgery and commended the patient for his bravery.

Dr. Tatsuo Kawai emphasized the collective endeavor spanning decades that led to this milestone, expressing hope that the transplant approach will offer hope to millions of kidney failure patients globally.

The pig kidney used in the transplant was sourced from eGenesis of Cambridge, Massachusetts, and underwent genetic editing using CRISPR-Cas9 technology to enhance its compatibility with humans. Measures were also taken to eliminate the risk of infection by inactivating porcine endogenous retroviruses. Collaborative research between MGH and eGenesis over the past five years culminated in this successful transplantation, with findings published in Nature in 2023.

Mike Curtis, CEO of eGenesis, hailed the achievement as a significant step forward in medical science, highlighting the potential of genome engineering to address the needs of millions of patients worldwide.

Dr. Nahel Elias underscored the multidisciplinary effort involved in the procedure, acknowledging the contributions of various teams and specialists at MGH.

This successful transplant represents a historic milestone in xenotransplantation, offering a potential solution to the global organ shortage crisis. With over 100,000 individuals in the U.S. awaiting organ transplants and 17 people dying each day due to the lack of available organs, this achievement holds profound implications for addressing the urgent need for organ donors.

The patient, Mr. Richard ‘Rick’ Slayman, is currently recovering well at MGH and is expected to be discharged soon. Praising Mr. Slayman’s courage, Dr. Joren C. Madsen, Director of the MGH Transplant Center, highlighted his role as a beacon of hope for individuals grappling with end-stage renal disease.

In a statement, Mr. Slayman expressed gratitude to the medical team at MGH for their unwavering support throughout his journey, emphasizing his trust in their expertise and commitment to improving patient outcomes.

Mr. Slayman, who has been battling Type 2 diabetes and hypertension, had previously undergone a kidney transplant from a deceased human donor in 2018. However, the transplanted kidney began to fail in 2023, leading to his inclusion in the groundbreaking pig kidney transplant procedure.

Dr. Winfred Williams, Mr. Slayman’s nephrologist, emphasized the potential of this breakthrough to address longstanding disparities in access to kidney transplants, particularly among ethnic minority patients.

The procedure was conducted under a single FDA Expanded Access Protocol (EAP), allowing access to experimental treatments for patients with life-threatening conditions. Mr. Slayman also received novel immunosuppressant drugs to support the success of the transplant.

Dr. Leonardo V. Riella, leading the team at Mass General Transplant Center, emphasized the significance of xenotransplantation in addressing the organ shortage crisis, expressing optimism about its potential to revolutionize the field of transplantation.

Massachusetts General Hospital, founded in 1811, stands as a pioneer in medical research and patient care, while Mass General Brigham continues to lead efforts in solving complex medical challenges through collaboration and innovation.

Mass General Brigham’s integrated academic health care system encompasses a comprehensive range of medical services, reflecting its commitment to patient care, research, and community service.

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