Man who received first genetically modified pig kidney transplant leaves hospital

Richard "Rick" Slayman

BOSTON — A Massachusetts man who became the first patient to receive a kidney transplant from a genetically modified pig was discharged from a Boston hospital on Wednesday -- several weeks after his surgery.

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Richard “Rick” Slayman, 62, of Weymouth, was discharged from Massachusetts General Hospital, WFXT-TV reported.

“This moment -- leaving the hospital today with one of the cleanest bills of health I’ve had in a long time -- is one I wished would come for many years,” Slayman said in a statement released by the hospital. “Now it’s a reality and one of the happiest moments of my life.”

The surgical team was made up of Tatsuo Kawai, Nahel Elias and Leonardo Riella, the hospital said. A genetically-edited pig kidney with 69 genomic edits was used in the procedure on March 16.

Kawai said that the pig kidney could work for about two years, The Associated Press reported.

The procedure brings the concept of xenotransplantation -- animal-to-human organ transplants -- closer to reality, David Klassen, the chief medical officer for the United Network for Organ Sharing, told The New York Times.

“Though much work remains to be done, I think the potential of this to benefit a large number of patients will be realized, and that was a question mark hovering over the field,” Klassen told the newspaper.

Slayman had a kidney transplant in 2018 at Massachusetts General Hospital but he had to return to dialysis after his body rejected the organ, The Associated Press reported. There were some complications with the dialysis, and doctors recommended the pig kidney transplant, Slayman said in a statement.

For the transplant last month, the kidney came from a pig genetically engineered by eGenesis, a biotech company, according to the Times. Scientists with the company removed three genes that potentially could have caused Slayman’s body to reject the organ, and inserted seven human genes to help compatibility, the newspaper reported.

Two previous organ transplants from genetically modified pigs have failed, the Times reported. Both patients received hearts and both died a few weeks later. But Slayman’s new kidney is producing urine, removing waste products from the blood and balancing the body’s fluids, according to the newspaper.

Slayman will continue his recovery at home, WFXT reported.

“I want to thank anyone who has seen my story and sent well-wishes, especially patients waiting for a kidney transplant,” Slayman said in his statement. “Today marks a new beginning not just for me, but for them, as well.

”My recovery is progressing smoothly and I ask for privacy at this time.”

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