The first animal organ that works in the body of a human is discovered. It was a kidney from a pig that was connected to the renal apparatus of the body of a woman who had already died but was kept oxygenated for the test. The transplanted organ functioned during the 52 hours of the experiment. The scientists genetically modified the animal so that the human body would not reject the organ.

“One of the things it will probably do is, you know, incentivize the process and give us more confidence that this is going to work and it’s going to be OK when we move on to the first live human trials. I think it will accelerate that process. We’re close. It will be a year or two years away,” says Robert Mongomery, MD, of NYU Langone Health.

According to the doctor in charge of this new finding, pig-to-human transplants could solve a shortage that causes nearly half of all patients to become seriously ill or die while waiting for an organ.

Several biotech companies are in the race to develop pig organs suitable for transplantation. The breakthrough is a victory for Revivicor, a subsidiary of United Therapeutics, the company that engineered the pig and its relatives, a herd of 100 bred under strictly controlled conditions in an Iowa facility.

The pigs lack a gene that produces alpha-gal, the sugar that triggers an immediate attack by the human immune system.

In December, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the genetic alteration of the Revivicor pigs as safe for human consumption and medicine.

But the FDA said the developers would have to submit further documents before the pigs’ organs could be transplanted into living humans.


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