Scientists Successfully Do Pig-to-Human Kidney Transplant. Would You Do It?

NPR is reporting that scientists from NYU Langone Health ‘attached a pig’s kidney to a human body and watched it begin to work.’

I’ll admit this is a pretty interesting advancement in medicine. I am an organ donor, but I know many people are not. There is a shortage of transplant organs available and no shortage of people who need them.

I’ll also admit this is sort of the stuff of science-fiction movies. It is also kind of weird, and I would probably not be too sure if I would do it. The pig itself was already a genetically engineered donor (which is pretty fvcking insane in and of itself), made to eliminate a known sugar that pigs produce which can trigger and immediate immune system attack.

“It had absolutely normal function,” Dr. Robert Montgomery said. “It didn’t have this immediate rejection that we have worried about.

“There was a possibility that some good could come from this gift.”

A transplant recipient himself, Montgomery said acknowledged this is a major milestone.

In this September 2021 photo provided by NYU Langone Health, a surgical team at the hospital in New York examines a pig kidney attached to the body of a deceased recipient for any signs of rejection. The test was a step in the decades-long quest to one day use animal organs for life-saving transplants.
Joe Carrotta/AP

“I was one of those people lying in an ICU waiting and not knowing whether an organ was going to come in time,” he said.

From the story, more than 90,000 people in the U.S. are in line for a kidney transplant. Every day, 12 die while waiting.

That is an incredible amount of people waiting for just one organ. That does not take into account what may be done with liver, heart, and other organs.

The WHO already has a guideline to the ethics of xenotransplantation — animal to human donation — and it is a staggering 168 pages long. If you are bored, here you go.

While this may be the latest news on the subject it is not entirely new.

Pig heart valves have been used in human heart surgeries for years. ‘Baby Fae’ is perhaps the most high-profile of cases as she lived 21 days with a baboon heart before passing away.

The whole subject brings me back to the timeless Jeff Goldblum as Ian Malcom in Jurassic Park: “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”

I am torn on this one.

The stats are pretty incredible. As listed about, 90K people waiting for a kidney, 12 die daily as they do so.

If it were me … I think the risk is worth the reward. I would probably do it.

Photo by Richard Catabay on Unsplash

Written by Malcolm Henry

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