NEW YORK CITY -- Groundbreaking surgery by doctors at NYU Langone successfully transplanted a gene-edited pig kidney and thymus into the body of a man who is brain dead.
NYU Langone says it is a big leap toward a life-saving organ source for patients.
"We transplanted an alpha-gal knockout kidney with a pig's thymus into a gentleman who had been declared dead by neurologic criteria," said Dr. Robert Montgomery, NYU Langone Transplant Institute.
The kidney transplanted by Dr. Montgomery and his team has worked for more than a month.
This is encouraging news because there are so many people in need of an organ transplant and human organs aren't readily available. If human bodies can more readily accept non-human organs, more people will survive otherwise fatal conditions.
Previously, the doctors at NYU evaluated pig kidney transplants in deceased recipients for just two or three days. This new study is expected to last two months.
The recipient is 57-year-old Maurice Miller known as Mo, from upstate New York. He died from an unexpected brain tumor.
His family decided to donate his body for the experiment, knowing it would be incredibly valuable to do so.
"At the most critical time, and the most sorrowful time of somebody's life, somebody's able to make this decision and say, 'Yes, my loved one can be a part of this," said Mary Miller-Duffy, the recipient's sister. "Though my brother cannot be here I can say with confidence that he will be proud of the fact that in the tragedy of his death, his legacy will be helping many people live."
She and her family are proud that her brother will be able to make a difference, even in death.
"Mo, as I like to call him, was a kind giving brother who loved life, and always lent a helping hand. It is only fitting that his final act, he will be helping so many in the need through this innovative medical advancement. I am excited and honored to be a participant in this breakthrough study with my brother Mo," she said.
If this study is successful in two months, the hope is that the FDA may allow studies of pig kidneys or pig hearts in volunteer patients.