UAB doctors make history transplanting a pig kidney into a human

First transplant of genetically altered pig kidney to human at UAB
Published: Jan. 20, 2022 at 10:43 PM CST
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - A groundbreaking surgery, performed at UAB, is bringing hope to people waiting for kidney transplants.

Researchers have worked for many years to be able to transplant animal kidneys into human recipients, but no one was able to demonstrate how this could work in real life until now.

A team of doctors and researchers at UAB unveiled the results of the world’s first clinical grade pig to human kidney transplant.

The study is an important step toward ending an organ shortage and preventing tens of thousands of deaths each year.

“This next step obviously, is one where we continually want to deal with the lack of opportunities for so many people who have chronic renal disease,” said Senior Vice President of Medicine at UAB, Dr. Selwyn Vickers.

Doctors said 37 million Americans have chronic kidney disease.

Some 800,000 Americans are defined as having kidney failure.

600,000 of them are on dialysis and need life-saving kidney transplants.

But doctors said there simply aren’t enough organs to go around and radical solutions are needed.

“We’re talking about xenotransplantation, or the development of an additional source of organs for the purpose of transplanting individuals with kidney failure,” said UAB Transplant Surgeon, Dr. Jayme Locke.

And surprisingly pigs are the most promising donor source.

Researchers genetically altered pig kidneys so they would work within the human immune system.

UAB doctors then designed and performed the world’s first pig kidney to human test.

The recipient was 57-year-old, Jim Parsons, a brain-dead man whose family gave permission for the test.

“We then transplanted and completed our vascular connections and restored blood flow to the kidney, you can see in the next picture, it’s beautiful and pink, and within 23 minutes of restoring the recipient’s blood flow to the pig kidney, it began to make urine,” Dr. Locke explained.

This test was performed back in September of last year.

Doctors said there are still many more questions that need answers before this type of organ transplant becomes a viable option, but it’s still an exciting development after decades of research in this field.


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