In a first-of-its-kind surgery, surgeons at NYU Langone Health in New York City connected a pig kidney to a human patient. An kidney from a pig was successfully transplanted into the patient’s body in New York City, where doctors saw the pink organ work properly for 54 hours.
After being unveiled at a press conference on October 21st, the operation represents progress towards the long-term aim of greatly increasing organ availability. Many of the donated organs never arrive for the millions of individuals who are on the waiting list all around the globe.
Megan Sykes, an immunologist at Columbia University who wasn’t involved in the study, says that although the procedure’s specifics haven’t been published yet, “it’s a huge step forward.” However, she argues, many more steps must be accomplished before individuals who are in need of a kidney may readily get one from a pig.
Why Scientist Is Exploring Animal Organ?
Nephrologist John Scandling is certain that using human organs would not resolve the shortage problem, as there aren’t enough donors available.
In the United States, the national transplant waiting list has over 106,706 people, 90% of whom need a kidney transplant. Only 39000 transplants were performed in 2019 though. It is estimated by the HRSA that 17 people die every day because they are waiting for an organ. The transplant waiting list grows by one person every nine minutes.
In the country of India ORBO (Organ Retrieval Banking Organization) at AIIMS estimates the number of kidney transplants needed annually to be in the range of 1.5-2 lakh, with just 8,000 actually taking place. In addition, the number of liver transplants conducted each year is only around 1,700-1,800, compared to the 40,000-50,000 transplants required each year.
What Is Xenotransplantation & Why Pig’s Organ?
Xenotransplantation, or the use of animal organs to fill human shortages, has been around for a long. The reason pigs were selected for this research is because their organs are anatomically equivalent to those of humans, and they can be reared in a lab setting.
Getting an organ from another species triggers the immune system to attack what it perceives as a big foreign invader. In experiments involving nonhuman monkeys, scientists noticed that the transplanted organ quickly turned black upon reception. One of the most important barriers to the success of a xenotransplant is severe rejection.
Some of these problems have been solved by genetic engineering in the last few decades. An antibody reaction to a sugar molecule called alpha-gal that is found in the blood vessels of pigs causes the inflammatory immunological response that is seen after a pig xenotransplantation. Because of this sugar molecule, some people are allergic to red meat.
Early in the new millennium, it was designed to shut off the pig gene responsible for producing the sugar. Pig kidneys and other organs have been successfully transplanted into nonhuman primates including baboons, according to the journal Science There has never been a successful human transplant up until now.
What Did Scientists Find Out Exactly After Pig Organ Use for Kidney Transplant?
The use of a cutting-edge technique on a human being raises a number of ethical issues. Robert Montgomery, a surgeon at NYU Langone Health in New York City, said the family of a woman who was brain dead but being kept alive on a ventilator in late September consented to the treatment. After then, her life support was turned off.
A kidney from a pig genetically modified to lack alpha-gal sugar was surgically linked to blood arteries in the patient’s upper thigh by Montgomery and his colleagues over the course of two hours. In order to monitor the kidney’s function in real time, it was placed outside. To increase the likelihood of the kidney being accepted, Montgomery implanted a pig’s thymus gland along with it. This may assist to train the immune system to identify kidneys as part of the body. In addition, Immunosuppressive medicines were also given to the patients. The kidney returned to normal functioning within minutes, generating copious quantities of urine as well as other indicators of health. For 54 hours, the researchers monitored the kidney for symptoms of rejection, but found none. Montgomery said, “It worked exactly like a real kidney transplant.”
What Future Holds?
Before the use of pig-grown organs becomes common, scientists must show that the organs can withstand assaults by other immune system players and remain viable for months or years within the human body after transplantation. T-cells, a kind of white blood cell, might, for example, mistakenly identify a transplanted organ as foreign and begin attacking it after some time passes. There are medications available that suppress the immune system, but they come with unwanted side effects such as increased vulnerability to infectious infections.
As per study, the pig’s thymus gland aids in the production of immune system cells and antibodies, along with the kidney, this may help lessen the long-term rejection of the transplant.
According to Dr. Montgomery, “we’re getting closer and closer to doing living-donor kidney transplants, especially if research and experiments continue to go forward favorably. This research has a long-term potential, and it’s not only focused on kidneys. The next great step might be the transplantation of pig heart. It will take more time before xenotransplantation becomes a common practice.”
1.NYU Langone Health. Progress in xenotransplantation opens door to new supply of critically needed organs. RESEARCH, INNOVATION, PRESS RELEASES | OCTOBER 21, 2021
2. News Mail Today India’s organ crisis deepens