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Brazilian leads pig kidney transplant in human patient in the USA

Brazilian doctor Leonardo Riella led the historic kidney transplant from a genetically modified pig to a human patient, marking a monumental advance in medicine. Carried out at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, United States, the innovative surgery represents new hope for thousands of people on the kidney transplant waiting list.

Before this feat, in 2021, a team in New York performed a similar procedure on a brain-dead patient as part of research. However, this is the first time such a transplant has been performed on a living patient.

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When they suggested a pig kidney transplant, carefully explaining the pros and cons of this procedure, I saw it not only as a way to help myself, but also as a way to give hope to the thousands of people who need a transplant to survive.” said the patient, Richard 'Rick' Slayman of Weymouth.

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A little about the research

Research into xenotransplantation, which consists of implanting animal organs into humans, was conducted over five years in collaboration with the company eGenesis. The main challenge was to overcome the immunological response that could result in rejection of the animal organ. To achieve this, problematic porcine genes were removed and human genes were added, in addition to the inactivation of endogenous porcine retroviruses to avoid risks of infection.

After several iterations of genetic modifications and tests on monkeys, the technique was approved by the FDA. The chosen patient, Richard “Rick” Slayman, 62, lived with advanced kidney disease and had been dependent on dialysis for seven years. Slayman, who volunteered for the surgery, was facing complications from type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.


First pig kidney transplant to humans is led by Brazilian, Leonardo Riella

First pig kidney transplant to humans is led by Brazilian, Leonardo Riella (Source: Reproduction/X/@LRviella)

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About the doctor

Leonardo Riella, associate professor of medicine and surgery at Harvard Medical School, emphasized the relevance of this procedure based on a genetically edited pig kidney. His research focuses on understanding the mechanisms of immune regulation and developing therapies to promote tolerance to transplanted organs.

This achievement not only expands treatment options for patients with kidney failure, but also opens the door to new therapeutic approaches, offering hope and a second chance at life for those facing debilitating chronic illnesses.

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Featured photo: Brazilian doctor leads team and makes a significant milestone in medicine (Reproduction/Michelle Rose/Massachussets General Hospital)

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Brazilian leads pig kidney transplant in human patient in the USA

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