Scientists have carried out the first successful transplant of pig kidney into a deceased person.
A 21-year-old woman became the first animal to undergo the procedure and, despite some post-operative complications, health officials are hopeful a donor can be found.
“The transplant was successful in that it was transplanted into the deceased donor woman’s blood system in every organ system,” Dr John Davis, medical director of transplant centre at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow, said.
“Obviously the thing that disappointed me as a scientist was that she is still receiving some dialysis after her kidney transplant … there is very little we can do in the short term for the patient,” he added.
The operation on the 21-year-old woman at the Royal Alexandra hospital in Paisley, Renfrewshire, was “very successful,” said Davis.
The hospital, part of Glasgow’s NHS health board, has not revealed the patient’s name. Davis said that it could not reveal the name to protect the woman’s privacy.
Davis said that “right now the patient is following up her blood and heart test results and we’re following up her neuro-imaging”.
Blood transfusions are usually an important part of a kidney transplant but have to be avoided in patients who are receiving the transplants from healthy donors. In animal procedures they are also required.
The transplanting team opened her abdomen in a single operation and the one section of her liver spared from removal. It was then removed before the transplant.
“The only way for us to safely transplant organ tissue [in a pig] is to open the abdominal cavity to the bladder, and open that all the way down. Unfortunately we cannot. It would be extremely traumatic for the patient,” said Davis.
However, there is a kidney left in the pig, which Davis said could be used in future kidney transplants.
Earlier this month surgeons successfully transplanted a pig kidney into a donor human during the first pig-to-human kidney transplant in Europe.
The procedure was carried out in the region of London and the transplanted kidneys were from a female pig that was a healthy eight weeks old.
In a statement, the pig’s father, Efrem, said his son was “in great spirits and making progress after the transplant.”
“When they discovered that they were going to have a young, healthy and whole pig, it all happened very quickly,” he said.
“We haven’t had to fill any false expectations that it would be easier for us to receive a kidney than it is for a human. Efrem is doing well and the surgery went very well.”