Scientists took the first steps toward pig-to-human kidney transplants


Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

For the first time, surgeons successfully attached a kidney from a genetically modified pig to a human patient — a major scientific breakthrough, and one that could open up a new way to provide organs to sick people.

Scientists got the kidney from a pig genetically engineered so that it wouldn’t produce a sugar called alpha-gal, which the human immune system attacks and would trigger the body to reject the organ. Surgeons at NYU attached the organ to a brain-dead patient on a ventilator whose family agreed to the experimental procedure. It was connected outside of her body to blood vessels on her leg, and observed over a period of 54 hours.

The recipient’s body didn’t immediately reject the kidney, and the kidney functioned normally…

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