Scientists have been attempting to transplant animal kidneys into humans for more than a century.
They have been unable to get those organs to work for more than a century.
University of Alabama researchers are now claiming a first.
With the patient’s family’s consent, they successfully transplanted the genetically altered pig’s kidneys into a brain-dead patient.
Although scientists have attempted this earlier with some degree of success, the current case study stands out because the patient’s body was promptly cleansed of creatinine by the pig kidneys.
The only way for creatinine to leave our bodies is through our kidneys through urine. Creatinine is a broken-down component of a waste product that is mostly created by our muscle cells. These are therefore vital kidney function tests that are necessary to maintain life.
No one had hitherto been successful in giving both accurate measurements.
‘Xenotransplantation’ refers to the transplanting of an organ from one species into another.
Because the human immune system destroys the foreign tissue even when immunosuppressive medications are used, these procedures have historically had a high failure rate. But in theory, scientists could prevent rejection if that animal organ was genetically altered to fool the human immune system into accepting it.
This proof of concept has now been executed with astounding success in a hospital. A ‘major innovation’ in genetic alteration was used to make the novel xenotransplant effective, according to Toby Coates, a clinical scientist from the University of Adelaide who was not involved in the current instance.
He claims that the insertion of six human genes and the elimination of four pig genes helped “prevent coagulation and ‘humanize’ the pig kidney.”
For a week, the patient’s human-like pig kidneys were functional, but further research is needed to see whether they can serve as temporary “bridges” or “destination therapies” for people with end-stage kidney disease.
Any scenario would be very appreciated. Nearly 40% of kidney transplant candidates in the US now pass away five years after being placed on the waiting list.
Only 25,000 people in the country receive a kidney transplant annually, despite the fact that there are more than 800,000 people in the country who have end-stage kidney disease.
Unfortunately, a single successful xenotransplant cannot establish the safety or efficacy of this treatment.
The transplant of two kidneys from a pig with 10 genetic alterations into another brain-dead patient a few years ago didn’t proceed as planned. The patient’s body did not reject the organs, but neither were levels of creatinine in the patient’s blood or urine low enough for it to be identified.
Some researchers are still dubious about the success of xenotransplants in patients who have already passed away. But expanding these studies to include the latter group is still up for debate.
Kidney xenotransplants would be the most secure option if researchers started trying it because these organs can be removed from the body without killing the patient if immune rejection develops.
The proponents of xenotransplantation research contend that while caution should be exercised, these actions could potentially save lives.
Despite being in its early stages, this pilot project, according to Coates, “provides hope for the over 15,000 Australians on dialysis who could benefit from a kidney transplant” and may even help to alleviate the lack of human kidney donors.
The letter was published in JAMA Surgery.