Humans to receive transplant organs from pigs as monkey kept alive for 2 years

A monkey who survived for two years with a genetically-engineered pig kidney has sparked "real hope" for the future of human medicine.

Scientists at US-based company eGenesis who transplanted the organ into the crab-eating macaque have published their findings in the journal Nature and said the findings could mean people suffering end-stage organ failure could soon receive transplants from the animals.

The research marks the longest period a non-human primate research animal has been kept alive with a pig organ. "This proof-of-concept study provides real hope that transplantation of porcine [pig] donor kidneys into humans is very much on the horizon," said Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, director of the transplant infectious disease program at the University of California, San Francisco.

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The researchers stressed the findings were preliminary but nevertheless marked a crucial step in providing organs to those who need them. If human trials are successful, using genetically modified pig organs could help cut down on wait times for organ transplants and save lives.

eGenesis CEO Michael Curtis, PhD, said he hoped his company's findings would extend the survival time of human recipients of the genetically-modified organs "from months to years".

But there are some challenges to navigate first. Humans receiving the organs could still reject them and infections are possible, meaning lots more testing is needed before we're all given pig kidneys, livers and gall bladders.

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Dr Josh Levitsky, President of the American Society of Transplantation, said: "If ultimately proved successful in human organ recipients – which is still years away at this point – this could be one of the key advances needed to make xenotransplantation a reality in clinical practice."

That's not to say humans haven't received genetically-engineered porcine organs before. The Daily Star previously reported Maurice Miller, who had been declared brain-dead prior to the experiment, survived a pig kidney transplant and had the organ in his body for a month before it was removed.

Doctors were left in awe after Mr Miller endured the "longest period that a gene-edited pig kidney has functioned in a human". The experiment took place after his family bravely gave medics the green light to administer the operation.

"Mo, as I like to call him, was a kind, giving brother who loved life, and always lent a helping hand," Mr Miller's sister, Mary Miller Duffy said in a press conference. "It is only fitting that in his final act, he will be helping so many in the need through this innovative medical advancement."

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