November 27, 2021

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Scientists Temporarily Attached A Pig’s Kidney Into A Human, And It Worked

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Each year, over 1.5 lakh people patiently wait for kidney transplants in India. Yet, only meagre 5,000 transplants are performed per year, according to data from the Ministry of Health.

The huge discrepancy between patients needing new kidneys and those who get them is due to a lack of availability. Between 1971 and 2015, only 783 kidneys that were successfully transplanted were from deceased donors, according to the Indian Transplant Registry.

The rest of the over 21, 395 officially recorded transplants came from living persons, either family members or others, who willingly donated their kidneys to the patient in need.

Various campaigns and awareness drive to encourage more people to register to donate their organs have yielded dismal results. Even when people sign, various factors are involved in successful harvesting and transplantation.

Therefore, there has been an increased need to look at alternate sources for kidneys, such as artificial kidneys, kidneys from other animals.

Now, a team of surgeons in New York City have become the first to successfully attach a pig’s kidney into a human, as part of a first clinical trial. The trial was to determine the viability of using pig organs, specifically kidneys, in humans.

Organs transplants are extremely complicated, and the biggest hurdle for a successful transplant is to stop the recipient’s body from being rejected to the new organ.

Since the cells of the new organs are foreign, the body considers them hostile, and the immune system attacks them. Even when the organ is from another human, it is extremely tricky to get the body to accept the new organ.

In this case, the kidney cells from the pig contain a type of sugar called the alpha-gal that is alien to the human body. Therefore, scientists from Revivor, a subsidiary of the pharmaceutical company United Therapeutics, used gene-editing technology to remove the sugars from the cell to get the receipt’s body to accept the organ.

The surgeons attached the kidney to the blood vessels of the receipt and observed it for two days. The kidney performed as expected and filter waste from the blood to produce urine, while the recipient’s body didn’t reject it.

“This is really cutting-edge translational surgery and transplantation that is on the brink of being able to do it in living human beings,” Dr Amy Friedman, a former transplant surgeon, who was not involved with the clinical trial told the New York Times.

Cover Image: Shutterstock

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