August 22, 2023
In July, surgeons at New York University (NYU) Langone Health performed a xenotransplantation of a genetically altered pig kidney into a patient declared dead by neurologic criteria; last week, NYU Langone announced that the kidneys were continuing to function optimally after more than 1 month.
This operation and continued function represent a milestone in kidney xenotransplantation as the longest period that a gene-edited pig kidney had functioned in a human, which may have significant implications for the hundreds of thousands of patients across the US who are waiting for kidney transplants and facing a shortage of human organs.
The procedure was led by Robert Montgomery, MD, DPhil, FACS, the H. Leon Pachter, MD Professor of Surgery, chair of the Department of Surgery, and director of the NYU Langone Transplant Institute. The patient will continue to be observed through mid-September as part of this study.
“This work demonstrates a pig kidney—with only one genetic modification and without experimental medications or devices—can replace the function of a human kidney for at least 32 days without being rejected,” Dr. Montgomery said. He previously performed the world’s first genetically modified pig kidney transplant into a deceased human in 2021.
The success of the kidney transplant depended on a large team, including geneticists who deactivated the gene that would lead to hyperacute rejection of the foreign species organ. To prevent delated rejection, the pig’s thymus gland was embedded in the outer layer of the kidney.
Xenotransplantation of gene-edited porcine organs has been advancing quickly in recent years, and Fellows have been at the forefront. In 2022, Bartley P. Griffith, MD, FACS, director of the cardiac transplant program at University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore, transplanted a genetically modified pig heart into a living patient. The patient lived for 60 days after the procedure, and it was determined that a porcine virus was likely responsible for their death, and not organ rejection.
Dr. Griffith will discuss his work on xenotransplantation at the Clinical Congress 2023 John H. Gibbon Jr. Lecture in Cardiothoracic Surgery.