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Richard “Rick” Slayman of Weymouth, Massachusetts was battling end-stage kidney disease

In a medical first, a 62-year-old man has been discharged from Massachusetts General Hospital after receiving a successful kidney transplant from a genetically modified pig, BBC reported. This breakthrough, following past unsuccessful attempts using pig organs, is hailed by scientists as a historic milestone that could revolutionize organ transplantation.

The news was shared in a press release on Wednesday by MGH, which is Harvard Medical School’s largest teaching hospital in the US city of Boston.

The hospital said the patient Richard “Rick” Slayman of Weymouth, Massachusetts, was battling end-stage kidney disease and required an organ transplant. On March 16, his doctors successfully transplanted a genetically-edited pig kidney into his body over a four-hour-long surgery.

The doctors said that Mr Slayman’s kidney is now functioning well and he no longer requires dialysis. 

Mr Slayman in a statement said that being able to leave the hospital and go home was “one of the happiest moments” of his life.

“I’m excited to resume spending time with my family, friends, and loved ones free from the burden of dialysis that has affected my quality of life for many years.”

In 2018, he underwent a kidney transplant from a dead human donor. However, last year, the transplanted kidney started to deteriorate, prompting doctors to suggest the possibility of a pig kidney transplant.

“I saw it not only as a way to help me, but a way to provide hope for the thousands of people who need a transplant to survive,” he said.

The new pig kidney he received was modified by Cambridge-based pharmaceutical company eGenesis to remove “harmful pig genes and add certain human genes to improve its compatibility with humans,” it said.

The hospital noted that for this procedure, it leveraged its legacy as the pioneer of the world’s first successful human organ transplant – a kidney – in 1954. Additionally, it referenced ongoing research conducted in collaboration with eGenesis on xenotransplantation (the transplantation of organs between different species) over the preceding five years.

The Food and Drug Administration approved the procedure under a single Expanded Access Protocol, commonly known as compassionate use, typically reserved for patients with life-threatening conditions to grant them access to experimental treatments.

The transplant team celebrated this milestone as a historic advancement that could offer a promising solution to the global organ shortage, particularly benefiting ethnic minority communities who are disproportionately affected by the shortage.

“An abundant supply of organs resulting from this technological advance may go far to finally achieve health equity and offer the best solution to kidney failure – a well-functioning kidney – to all patients in need,” said Winfred Williams, Mr Slayman’s doctor at MGH.

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