Thursday, December 9

They perform the first transplant of a genetically modified pig kidney in a human being

They perform the first transplant of a genetically modified pig kidney in a human being

Scientists and physicians at New York University have achieved a surprising breakthrough by successfully completing the first transplant of a pig kidney with genetic modifications in the body of a human being, obtaining very promising results. They could accelerate the development of these techniques and provide an alternative way of obtaining organs for transplantation, in what would be a true revolution in the field of regenerative medicine.

The hope of xenotransplantation

The xenotrasplantes they are a set of techniques that allow the transplantation of cells, tissues or organs between phylogenetically different species, that is, with a low kinship relationship. Although this is a promising prospect, the concept presents several pitfalls to overcome. The main problem in these transplants is to achieve the necessary compatibility between organisms that function differently.

Against this, they are used genetic modification techniques that allow the elimination or addition of certain characteristics in the tissues or organs, thus making them more similar to the conditions of the recipient body. Although this type of initiative generates notable ethical counterpoints, the truth is that the traditional ways to obtain organs for transplantation are considerably exceeded by demand.

In the context of the global increase in life expectancy and the aging of the population, it is clear that there is a profound gap between the number of organs available for transplantation each year and the number of patients waiting for a graft. In this way, the progress made by American researchers opens up hope for many people who face serious health problems.

Promising results

In the experiment, performed on a deceased human volunteer, the gene related to alpha-gal carbohydrate, present in most mammals with the exception of humans, and which is responsible for a rapid rejection of porcine organs by our species, was “eliminated” in the donor pig. Genetic modification made it possible for the outer kidney to achieve good compatibility with the functioning of the human body.

According to a Press releaseAfter a study period of 54 hours, urine output and creatinine levels, key indicators of a properly functioning kidney, were found to be normal and equivalent to what is observed in a human kidney transplant.

In addition to eliminating the alpha-gal biomolecule, the main factor in the rejection experienced in pig-to-human xenografts, the scientists transplanted the thymus gland of the pig, destined to the «education» of the immune system, together with the kidney. Thanks to this, new immune responses that could lead to rejection of the organ received were avoided.

Related topic: Regenerative medicine will allow to make personalized implants.

In living humans

In this example, the pig used was Genetically ‘engineered’ under specific criteria, on a path that could deepen in the coming decades. Leaving aside futuristic scenarios, reality indicates that the global needs for organs for transplantation could lead to an incipient “industry” specialized in the preparation of certain species for use in the field of xenotransplantation.

According to the conclusions of the specialists, this successful experiment with a deceased human volunteer could soon lead to the xenotransplantation of a kidney in a living human being. In the future, this technique is not limited to the kidneys: the transplant a genetically modified pig’s heart may be the next big thing.

Photo: In the experiment, the pig kidney was attached to the blood vessels in the upper leg of the deceased donor, outside the abdomen, and covered with a protective shield for observation and sampling of kidney tissue during the study period of 54 hours. Credit: Hans Braxmeier on Pixabay.

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