Breakthrough in Xenotransplantation

Approximately 17 people die every day waiting for an organ transplant and every 9 minutes a person is added to an organ transplant list. There is a critical shortage in the number of organs that are available for transplant and the number of people requiring a transplant with the majority requiring a kidney. A link between the surge of COVID-19 infections and a decline in donated organs and organ transplants has been observed. Those who passed away due to complications associated with COVID-19 are not eligible to donate their organs even if they are listed as organ donors. The reason for this is that they may negatively impact an already weakened immunocompromised individual. Xenotransplantation could give millions of people a new future, and grant them the possibility of living their lives normally. As defined by the FDA, xenotransplantation is a procedure that involves the transplantation, infusion, and implantation of live cells, tissues, or organs from a non-human source. Xenotransplantation can open a world of possibilities and provide hope to families awaiting an organ transplant.

On September 25, 2021, at NYU, the two-hour transplant of a kidney from a genetically engineered pig to a brain-dead patient was achieved. With the consent of the family, the donor was kept on a ventilator for 54 hours while the doctors studied the kidney's function. Creatinine levels and urine production were normal and gave results equivalent to that of a human kidney transplant. The kidney was attached to the blood vessels in the upper leg outside of the abdomen and there was no immediate hyperacute rejection of the kidney. When kidney transplants are typically done the old kidney is left in the abdomen while the new kidney is placed in the pelvic area. The main reason people can donate a kidney and live just fine is because only one functional kidney is needed to filter blood.

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