Patient Dies 2 Months After Breakthrough Transplant

Richard Slayman received a genetically modified pig kidney
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 12, 2024 10:00 AM CDT
First to Receive Genetically Altered Pig Kidney Dies
Melissa Mattola-Kiatos, an RN, removes the pig kidney from its box to prepare for transplantation at Massachusetts General Hospital on March 16 in Boston.   (Massachusetts General Hospital via AP, File)

The first recipient of a genetically modified pig kidney transplant has died nearly two months after he underwent the procedure, his family and the hospital that performed the surgery said Saturday. Richard Slayman had the transplant at Massachusetts General Hospital in March at age 62. Surgeons said they believed the pig kidney would last for at least two years. The transplant team at Massachusetts General Hospital said in a statement it was deeply saddened by Slayman's death and offered condolences to his family. There was no indication that he died as a result of the transplant, the AP reports.

The Weymouth, Massachusetts, man was the first living person to have the procedure. Previously, pig kidneys had been temporarily transplanted into brain-dead donors. Two men received heart transplants from pigs; both died within months. Slayman had a kidney transplant at the hospital in 2018, but he had to go back on dialysis last year when it showed signs of failure. When dialysis complications arose requiring frequent procedures, his doctors suggested a pig kidney transplant. In a statement, Slayman's family thanked his doctors. "Their enormous efforts leading the xenotransplant gave our family seven more weeks with Rick, and our memories made during that time will remain in our minds and hearts," the statement said.

Slayman underwent the surgery in part to provide hope for people who need a transplant to survive, his family said. "Rick accomplished that goal and his hope and optimism will endure forever," the statement said. Xenotransplantation refers to healing human patients with cells, tissues, or organs from animals. Such efforts long failed because the human immune system immediately destroyed foreign animal tissue. Recent attempts have involved pigs that have been modified so their organs are more humanlike. More than 100,000 people are on the national waiting list for a transplant, most of them kidney patients, and thousands die every year before their turn comes. (More kidney transplant stories.)

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