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Pig kidney transplant patient leaves Massachusetts hospital

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The first patient to receive a kidney transplant from a genetically modified pig has been discharged from hospital.

Richard “Rick” Slayman received the organ in March a world first after undergoing a four-hour surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in Boston.

The 62-year-old suffers from end-stage renal failure, a chronic disease in which the kidneys can no longer function on their own.

“This moment – ​​leaving the hospital today with one of the cleanest checkups I’ve had in a long time – is one I wish I had for many years,” he said Wednesday in a press release.

“Now it’s a reality and one of the happiest moments of my life.”

Rick Slayman in his hospital room at Massachusetts General Hospital.  Photo: Michelle Rose/Massachusetts General Hospital
Picture:
Mr. Slayman thanked his supporters. Photo: Michelle Rose/Massachusetts General Hospital

He thanked all the medical staff involved and who treated him – before and after – his “historic transplant”.

He added: “I am delighted to be able to spend time with my family, friends and loved ones again, without the burden of dialysis which has affected my quality of life for many years.

“I would like to thank everyone who saw my story and sent me well wishes, especially those patients waiting for a kidney transplant. Today marks a new beginning, not only for me, but also for them.

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“It was such a joyful day for all of us,” Dr. Leonardo Riella, the hospital’s medical director for kidney transplant, told NBC10 Boston.

The successful surgery raised hopes that animal-to-human transplants – xenotransplantation – could address the global shortage of donor organs.

“Unfortunately, there are not enough kidneys,” he said for the thousands of patients who need them.

“This would represent immense hope for them to receive a kidney in a timely manner before they become too ill to benefit from a kidney transplant – which is the best treatment for kidney disease.”

The kidney received by Mr. Slayman was modified by the company eGenesis, based in Massachusetts.

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It has been genetically modified using technology to remove harmful porcine genes and add some human genes to improve its compatibility with humans.

Since the beginning of the 2000s, researchers have been trying to genetically modify pigs in order to reduce the risk of rejection of the transplant by the human immune system.

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According to the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), more than 100,000 people in the United States are waiting for an organ transplant. The data also shows that around 17 people die every day while waiting, with the kidney being the most common organ needed for a transplant.

More than 5,200 patients are on the kidney transplant waiting list in the UK, surpassing the 3,300 transplants carried out each year, according to the charity Kidney Research.

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