The Experts in Animal Health

What do you think of when you see a pig?  Do you start to salivate thinking about bacon, ham, a big juicy pork chop or a slab of ribs?  Rick Slayman, a 62-year old Massachusetts resident with end-stage kidney disease sees pigs as a potential ticket to a dialysis-free life.

On March 21, doctors at Mass General Hospital performed the first transplant of a genetically modified kidney from a pig.  According to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, approximately 27,000 kidneys were transplanted in 2023.  However, the waitlist for human kidneys has approximately 89,000 individuals on it.  Just think about how many people could live a productive, happy, healthy life if this operation proves to be a complete success.  This could potentially eliminate the largest barrier to transplantation which is organ supply.

The most critical obstacle to the use of animal organs in humans is organ rejection.  The kidney used in this procedure was genetically modified by eGenesis Bio to increase human compatibility.  eGenesis employed new technology to make 69 precise edits to the pig’s DNA (snipping certain characteristics out and adding others) to try to prevent the human body from seeing the kidney as a foreign body.  That, combined with monoclonal antibody treatments to reduce the likelihood of rejection, provide a possible pathway for animal organ transplantation.

Think again as you stare at that slab of ribs smothered in barbeque sauce.  Pigs might not only be a sustainable food supply but might provide a hugely critical source of organs for critical care human patients.

Randy Freides

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