Photo - Unsplash.com

On October 19 a medical team in New York were able to transplant a Pig's Kidney into a human patient without it getting immediately rejected by the person's immune system. This is the first case of a successful pig to human kidney transplant in medical history and it has taken the internet by storm.  

The groundbreaking procedure was performed by surgeons at NYU Langone Health, using a kidney of a pig whose gene has been edited.  According to a report by the New York Times, the  patient who recived the kidney was on ventilator and was already declared brain dead prior to the transplant.     

Dr Robert Montgomery, the director of the NYU Lan gone Transplant Institute  who led the procedure  told reporters that the kidney began functioning few minutes after it was connected to the patient's blood vessels and began producing large quantities of urine.  He also remarked that the creatinine, a waste product filtered by the kidney from the body, dropped from  1.9 to 0.8  demonstrating that the kidney was functioning optimally.  The kidney was attached  to the upper leg  of the patient, outside the abdomen where it was connected with  blood vessels . 

The process of transplanting organ from one species to another species is called  Xenotransplantation. This is not a new practice in the medical world.  Even in India, in the year 1997, heart surgeon Dr Dhani Ram Baruah with Hongkong  Surgeon  Go-Kei-Shing in Assam performed pig to human organ transplant where they transplanted a pig's heart into a human patient with end-stage heart disease. The surgery was done with the patient's family consent, however the patient died  a week later due to multiple infections. 

The surgery landed Dr Baruah in hot water as he was detained for violating  Human  Organ Transplant Laws in India for a period of 40 days.  While speaking to The Print, Dr Baruah detailed how the surgery got him into much trouble and how his procedure and the method utilised by the team in New York were different. The Print report quoted Dr Dhani Ram Baruah as saying that he " did not do any genetic alteration in the pig’s organ and instead came up with an anti-hyperacute rejection therapy, which was given to that pig organ so that it can be accepted by the human body easily,” he said. “I did not use any immunosuppression and additionally removed preformed antibodies from human blood so that it had given extra protection for acceptance.”

Baruah expressed his concern over the practice though he reportedly called it "a proof of concept". In the report by The Print he was said to further quote that   “It (xenotransplantation) would reduce our dependence on various organs which obviously are very scarce…[but] there are obviously a lot of challenges — medical, ethical and religious,” 

Though Xenotransplantation has come a long way since Dr Baruah and his colleague performed it  on a patient in Assam, a lot of research needs to go into it as rejection-risk and long term  function of inter-species transplants remain unknown. Besides it's medical uncertainty, ethical questions concerning animal welfare and exploitation as well as religious sentiments will have to be addressed as well, if it is to be established as an effective, widely practiced medical procedure. As for now, the 'successful'   pig to human kidney transplant in New York is yet to be peer reviewed on medical journals. 

The Mizos

The Mizos is a one-man team news blog, that brings you news and stories from Mizoram, Northeast India and the rest of the World.


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