(RepublicanNews.org) – It sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie: Surgeons in New York managed to use a pig kidney to treat a human suffering from kidney failure. While some people may see having an animal’s organs inside them as crossing the line, others feel it could save lives. Are they right?
The innovative procedure took place at New York Langone Health Center. Doctors were struggling to find a way to help an unidentified patient who showed few signs of recovering independently. In fact, her medical care team was considering taking her off of life support.
In a last-ditch effort, the patient’s family agreed to allow doctors the right to attempt an experimental transplant using a pig kidney. The complex procedure lasted about two hours in total, with surgeons carefully connecting delicate blood vessels to the kidney.
This event wasn’t the first time pig parts have saved human lives. Doctors use porcine heart valves to treat cardiac conditions quite frequently. The reason the crossover works? A pig’s anatomy is remarkably close to that of a human; the two species share similar organ sizes and layouts. So it’s not really a surprise that pig organs would make ideal transplants, provided the patient’s body doesn’t reject the organ or part.
To keep the kidney accessible, researchers sustained it outside of the patient’s body for three days before the surgery. Scientists also preemptively altered the pig’s genes to remove a molecule in the kidney tissue that would cause a human body to reject it almost instantaneously, lowering the risk of complications.
The real win came shortly after surgeons successfully transplanted the pig kidney into the dying patient. Leading doctor and transplant surgeon, Robert Montgomery, confirmed that while the patient displayed abnormal creatinine levels before surgery, her values stabilized shortly afterward. It was a complete success.
Thousands of people in the world are waiting for organ transplants at any given time. Sadly, donors are not necessarily easy to come by. The fact that surgeons successfully implanted a pig kidney into a human will undoubtedly lead to further innovation in the field. It dramatically increases the medical industry’s potential to save lives.
Of course, it’s unlikely that kidney and other organ transplants will become standard in an instant. Extensive testing is necessary to prove the procedures safe and reliable for humans suffering from organ failure. Still, it is a ray of hope for many patients currently waiting for a transplant — and that can be all someone needs to keep fighting to stay alive. Would you accept an animal organ transplant if it meant saving your life?
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