NEW YORK (StudyFinds.org) – With organ donors still scarce, an ongoing study has identified a possible alternative – organs from animals. Researchers at New York University Langone Health claim to have successfully xenotransplanted – that is, removing an organ from one species and implanting it in another – not once, but twice. A team of surgeons used a genetically modified pig kidney, transplanting it into a human body without experiencing rejection.
Dr Robert Montgomery notes that the two transplant recipients were in fact deceased with their bodies being kept alive using a ventilator. Nonetheless, both surgeries proved that a specially designed kidney from another species could help provide vital organs to those in desperate need.
“We were able to replicate the results of the first transformation procedure to demonstrate the continued promise that these genetically modified organs could be a renewable source of organs for the many people around the world awaiting a living gift,” says Dr Montgomery. in a university outing. “There is still a lot of work to do before we start living in human trials, but our preliminary results give us hope.”
How Did Scientists Avoid Organ Rejection?
Before the two transplants, carried out on September 25 and November 22, scientists genetically modified the pig kidney to cause it to lack the alpha-gal gene, which triggers the rejection of pig organs by humans. Scientists also fused the thymus of the pig to the kidney before transplantation. The gland “teaches” the immune system how to make white blood cells and fight infections.
Dr. Montgomery and the team attached the kidney to the upper leg of the human body, near the abdomen. Over the next 54 hours, they monitored urine output and creatinine levels in the kidneys. These are important markers that show whether a kidney is functioning properly, whether it is from a person or from a pig. The results show that the kidney is functioning as expected from a normal human kidney transplant. Doctors also report that there was no sign of rejection following the procedures.
“We continue to make progress with single gene knockout xenotransplantation,” adds Dr. Montgomery. “With further study and replication, this could be the way forward to save thousands of lives each year.”
Family sacrifice can give hope to thousands of people
The researchers note that the two bodies were donated by LiveOnNY, a nonprofit that facilitates organ and tissue donation in the New York area, on behalf of families who have agreed to allow scientists to use the whole body of their loved one for scientific research.
According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, more than 90,000 people across the United States are currently awaiting vital kidney transplants.
“This is a transformative time in organ transplantation,” Dr. Montgomery said in a previous statement. “The medical and scientific communities have been working on xenotransplantation to sustain human life for over 50 years. There have been many obstacles along the way, but our most recent procedure takes those efforts forward significantly. This research offers new hope for an unlimited supply of organs, a potential change for the field of transplantation and those who are now dying of organ shortage.
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