The first person with a transplanted pig kidney has died

The first person to receive a pig kidney transplant has died just two months after undergoing the groundbreaking procedure.

Rick Sleiman, a 62-year-old man from Weymouth, Massachusetts, had a genetically modified pig kidney implanted into his body in a groundbreaking four-hour operation at Massachusetts General Hospital on March 16.

Slayman had end-stage kidney disease and had previously received a human kidney transplant, which after several years showed signs of failure. His doctors suggested the experimental pig kidney transplant, as Slyman began dialysis again and experienced severe complications.

Doctors had hoped the pig kidney would be able to last for years, CNN reported, but because such a transplant had never been done before, there was uncertainty about how well it would do. Slayman died just weeks after the operation, but his medical team said there was no evidence the transplant was related to his death.

"The transplant team at Mass General is deeply saddened by the sudden passing of Mr. Rick Sleiman," the hospital said. "We have no indication that it is a result of his recent transplant." The statement did not provide details on the cause of Sleiman's death.

By March 2024, more than 100,000 Americans will be on the organ transplant waiting list, with 89,000 of them needing a kidney. Every day 17 people from these lists die. The transplantation of genetically modified organs from animals into humans, a process known as xenotransplantation, is seen as a promising new way to potentially address the shortage of available organs from human donors.

Before Slaymon's procedure, scientists had only performed experimental pig kidney transplants in brain-dead donors as proof-of-concept surgeries. Since then, however, one more living patient has received such a transplant - a 54-year-old man who, along with the pig kidney, also received a heart pump.

The first person to receive any kind of pig organ was a Maryland man who in 2022 underwent the world's first pig heart transplant. He died soon after the operation, possibly as a result of contracting a swine virus that causes an inflammatory reaction.

In Sleiman's case, scientists used the gene-editing technology CRISPR to alter the donor pig's genes, removing those that might prompt the human immune system to attack the kidney and adding ones that might help prevent rejection of the transplant. At the same time, the patient also received antibody-based treatment and immunosuppressive drugs to prevent rejection of the organ.

The kidney itself comes from a company called eGenesis, which has previously successfully tested the transplant in monkeys. In these experiments, the monkeys lived an average of about 176 days, or almost six months, after surgery.

In the hospital's statement, his family said they were grateful to have spent the last few weeks with him.

"[The tremendous efforts of the medical team] leading the xenotransplantation gave our family another seven weeks with Rick, and the memories created during that time will live on in our minds and hearts," they wrote.

"Millions of people around the world have come to know Rick's story," they added. "We felt - and still feel - reassured by the optimism he gave to patients desperately waiting for a transplant." /BGNES