The next thing for the pig in medicine


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I had my first kidney transplant in 2004. It was transplanted after 10 years. The replacement I received in 2016, works well but won’t last forever. Elderly transplant patients say to each other, “May your organs last longer.” Otherwise, you may not exist in the queue for a new one.

That’s why recent breakthroughs in xenotransplant transplantation – the transplantation of animal tissues and organs between species – have been so exciting. In September, doctors at NYU Langone Medical Center attached a pig kidney to a blood vessel in the leg of a deceased woman (with her family’s permission). It produced urine and cleared the residues during the 54-hour observation period. Two months later, they repeated the procedure.

Also in September, a team at the University of Alabama at Birmingham transplanted the first genetically modified pig kidney into the body of Jim Parsons, 57, of Huntsville, who died in a motorcycle accident. The main surgeon said. The experiment lasted 77 hours.

Then, on January 7, surgeons at the University of Maryland transplanted a heart from a genetically engineered pig into David Bennett Sr., who doctors said were running out of treatment options. other treatment. Mr. Bennett, 57, is still alive.

More than 90,000 Americans are waiting for a kidney. In 2021, less than 25,000 people received one, and about 41,000 people were added to the national waiting list. On an average day, about a dozen people on this list die.

Dialysis – an hour-long process of cleaning your blood – extends life, although not as much as a transplant, but a challenge that lasts several times a week. More than half a million Americans have end-stage kidney disease and depend on dialysis, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. The Medicare End-Stage Kidney Disease Program spent $51 billion on dialysis in 2019, more than 6% of Medicare’s total budget.

Xenotransplantation is the future. Jayme Locke, the surgeon who led the University of Alabama research team, said she hopes to be able to have a pig kidney transplant within five years. Congratulations to Dr. Locke, her colleagues and the noble pig. Make donor shortages – their heartbreak, their unfairness, and their costs – a thing of the past.

Satel is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a visiting professor of psychiatry at Columbia University’s Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons.

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Appears in print February 10, 2022. The next thing for the pig in medicine

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