First Person to Receive Pig Kidney Transplant Dies Nearly Two Months Later

The medical community recently experienced a notable moment as we bid farewell to the first recipient of a genetically-modified pig kidney transplant, Richard Slayman. Sadly, Slayman passed away nearly two months after bravely undergoing this groundbreaking procedure.

Pig Kidney Transplant
Melissa Mattola-Kiatos, RN, nursing practice specialist, removes the pig kidney from its box to prepare for transplantation at Massachusetts General Hospital, on March 16, 2024, in Boston. Massachusetts General Hospital—AP

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The Patient

Richard Slayman, a 62-year-old man from Weymouth, Massachusetts, made history as the first living person to undergo this procedure. Slayman had been battling end-stage kidney disease, a condition where the kidney experiences a severe loss of function. This condition can manifest in changes in urination, fatigue, swelling of feet, high blood pressure, and loss of appetite.

Slayman’s kidney condition stemmed mainly from type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, the leading causes of chronic kidney disease. In 2018, he underwent a human kidney transplant, but complications ensued, necessitating numerous procedures. Last year, when signs of failure appeared, he had to return to dialysis.

When the complications from dialysis became too severe, his doctors recommended a pig kidney transplant. The procedure took place at Massachusetts General Hospital in March 2024. Surgeons were optimistic that the pig kidney would provide functionality for at least two years.

The Aftermath

Despite the initial success of the procedure, Slayman’s health declined, and he passed away nearly two months after the transplant. The transplant team at Massachusetts General Hospital conveyed their profound sadness at Slayman’s passing and extended their heartfelt condolences to his family. They emphasized that they had no indication that his death was a result of the transplant.

In a statement, Slayman’s family conveyed their appreciation to his doctors and expressed gratitude for the seven additional weeks they had with Rick. They highlighted that Slayman underwent the surgery partly to offer hope for the thousands of people in need of a transplant to survive. “Rick accomplished that goal, and his hope and optimism will endure forever,” the statement emphasized.

Similar Cases in Recent Years

Over the past few years, there have been multiple efforts in xenotransplantation, which involves transplanting organs or tissues from animals to humans. For example, there were two heart transplants utilizing pig organs, but unfortunately, both patients passed away within a couple of months post-transplantation.

Additionally, experiments have been conducted with pig liver and kidney in brain-dead patients. Another notable case featured a woman who received a gene-edited kidney from a pig. This kidney was comparatively straightforward compared to the one transplanted into Slayman, as it had three pig genes removed and seven human genes added.

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