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One Heart, One (Pig) Kidney

Surgeons at NYU's Langone Health center have successfully transplanted a gene-edited pig kidney in tandem with a mechanical heart pump implant, doctors revealed yesterday. The first-of-its-kind combination procedure could increase access to life-saving treatment for people with multiple chronic illnesses typically ineligible for human organ donation. Over 100,000 people are currently on the national transplant waiting list.

The patient, 54-year-old Lisa Pisano, suffered from both kidney disease and heart failure. Under the Food and Drug Administration's "compassionate use" authorization, doctors first surgically implanted the electric heart pump, followed by the pig kidney eight days later. The procedure marks just the second successful gene-edited pig kidney xenotransplant, where an animal organ is transplanted into a human (see history).

The proprietary organ contains tissue from the pig's immune system-regulating thymus gland, and was developed via a process that edited a single pig gene to stop the production of a sugar (what is alpha-gal?) that the human immune system typically rejects. 

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