Patient dies weeks after kidney transplant from genetically modified pig

Richard “Rick” Slayman, who made history at the age of 62 as the first person to receive a kidney from a genetically modified pig, has died nearly two months after the procedure.

Massachusetts General Hospital, where Mr. Slayman had the operation, said in a statement on Saturday that its transplant team was “deeply saddened” by his death. The hospital said it had “no indication that this was a result of her recent transplant.”

Mr. Slayman, who was black, had end-stage kidney disease, a condition that affects more than 800,000 people in the United States, according to the federal government, with a disproportionately higher rate among black people.

There are very few kidneys available for donation. About 90,000 people are on the national waiting list for a kidney.

Mr. Slayman, a supervisor at the state Department of Transportation in Weymouth, Massachusetts, received a human kidney in 2018. When it began to fail in 2023 and he developed congestive heart failure, his doctors suggested he get a kidney from a modified pig.

“I saw this as a way to not only help me, but to provide hope for the thousands of people who need a transplant to survive,” he said in a hospital news release in March. “

His surgery, which lasted four hours, was a medical milestone. For decades, proponents of so-called xenotransplantation have proposed replacing diseased human organs with animal organs. The main problem with this approach is the human immune system, which rejects the animal tissues as foreign, often leading to serious complications.

Recent advances in genetic engineering have allowed researchers to modify the genes of animal organs to make them more compatible with their recipients.

The pig kidney that was transplanted into Mr. Slayman was engineered by Egenesis, a biotech company based in Cambridge, Mass. Scientists there removed three genes and added seven others to improve compatibility. The company has also inactivated retroviruses that occur in pigs and can be harmful to humans.

“Mr. Slayman was a true pioneer,” Egenesis said in a statement On social media on Saturday. “His courage has helped pave the way forward for current and future patients suffering from kidney failure.”

Mr. Slayman was released from the hospital two weeks after his surgery, “one of the best bills of health I've had in a long time,” he said at the time.

In a statement published by the hospital, Mr Slayman's family said he was kind, bright and “completely devoted to his family, friends and colleagues.” He said he found it comforting to know that his case has inspired so many people.

“Millions of people around the world have come to know Rick's story,” he said in the statement. “We felt – and still feel – consoled by the optimism they provided to patients desperately waiting for a transplant.”

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