A pig-to-human kidney transplant by the NYU Langone Health team worked for two months (Credit:nyulangone.org/ CC-BY-SA-2.0)

In a medical breakthrough that could save thousands of lives, surgeons at NYU Langone Health reported that a pig-to-human kidney transplant had worked for two months. This is the longest period a genetically modified pig kidney has functioned in a human.

The study, conducted on Maurice "Mo" Miller, began on July 14, 2023. The 58-year-old had suddenly collapsed and been declared brain-dead. Miller had wanted to donate his organs after his death. However, that was not possible since he had cancer. Instead, his sister decided to give the body to the NYU team for the pig experiment.

The researchers connected Miller to a ventilator machine to keep his heart working. They then removed both his kidneys and replaced it with one pig kidney. This ensured the body's kidney function was performed solely by the transplanted animal organ. To their delight, the pig organ began producing urine almost instantly.

Kidneys help get rid of body waste and are crucial to survival (Credit: NMkidney.org/ CC-BY-SA-2.0)

More importantly, the level of creatinine was within a healthy range. The waste product comes from the digestion of food protein and the normal breakdown of muscle tissue. It is a good indicator of how well the kidney is working. The study came to an end on September 13, 2023. The researchers removed the pig kidney and returned Miller's body to his family for cremation.

"It's a combination of excitement and relief," Dr. Robert Montgomery, the transplant surgeon who led the experiment, told The Associated Press. "Two months is a lot to have a pig kidney in this good a condition. That gives you a lot of confidence for next attempts."

Hundreds of thousands of people currently need kidney transplants (Credit: The University of Alabama at Birmingham / CC-BY-SA-2.0)

Montgomery and his team will examine the 180 tissue samples taken from different parts of Miller's body. They want to ensure that the pig kidney transplant did not harm any of his organs.

The NYU experiment was the longest-ever conducted. However, it is not the first time researchers have successfully transplanted pig kidneys in deceased humans. In February 2023, researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham achieved similar results in a study that lasted seven days.

Many more such experiments will be required before trials on living humans can begin. But the progress is encouraging and provides hope to the hundreds of thousands of people in need of a kidney. Currently, nearly 5,000 Americans and more than 3,000 people in Europe die each year while waiting for a kidney transplant.

Resources: apnews, com, Nyulangone.org