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  • 1440 Daily Digest

Pig Kidney Transplant

A genetically modified kidney taken from a donor pig has functioned normally after being transplanted into a brain-dead patient more than a month ago, doctors revealed yesterday. Researchers say the patient had both kidneys removed and was sustained in their vegetative state while relying on the new organ.

The success relies on advanced gene-editing techniques. The presence of a sugar molecule known as alpha-gal, produced by most mammals but not humans, causes acute organ rejection by the body after surgery. The recent news is the fifth demonstration of kidneys from pigs modified to not produce the molecules being used as transplants. Listen to a deep dive about alpha-gal—also the cause of red meat allergy—here.

Last year, a terminally ill patient died two months after receiving a pig heart transplant, possibly due to the organ being infected with an animal virus. Around 8,000 American patients die each year while awaiting organ transplants.

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