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First Genetically Modified Pig Kidney Transplant Patient Dies

Richard "Rick" Slayman, the first recipient of a genetically modified pig kidney, passed away two months post-surgery, a landmark event in xenotransplantation

Richard “Rick” Slayman, the first person to receive a genetically modified pig kidney, passed away almost two months after his pioneering surgery. Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), which performed the transplant, stated that there is no indication that the surgery was the cause of Slayman’s death. The news has sent shockwaves through the medical community and beyond, as Slayman’s case was hailed as a historic milestone in the field of xenotransplantation.

Slayman, who had been suffering from end-stage kidney disease, Type 2 diabetes, and hypertension for many years, underwent the critical surgery in March with the hope that the pig kidney would last at least two years. Despite previous failures in transplanting organs from genetically modified pigs, Slayman’s case gave hope to countless transplant patients worldwide.

Slayman’s medical history was complex, having received a kidney transplant from a deceased human donor in December 2018 after seven years on dialysis. When the transplanted kidney began to fail approximately five years later, he resumed dialysis in May 2023. The frequent complications and hospital visits associated with his dialysis significantly impacted his quality of life, a common problem among dialysis patients.

In a statement, Slayman’s family expressed their deep sadness at his sudden passing but found comfort in knowing that he inspired so many. “Millions of people worldwide have come to know Rick’s story,” they said, adding that they felt comforted by the optimism he provided to patients desperately waiting for a transplant.

The field of xenotransplantation has seen other recent developments, with a New Jersey woman, Lisa Pisano, receiving a genetically modified pig kidney in April. Pisano’s case was particularly challenging, as her combination of heart and kidney failure left her too sick to qualify for a traditional transplant, leaving her with few options.

As the medical community reflects on the potential of xenotransplantation and the legacy of Rick Slayman, it is clear that his bravery and determination have paved the way for future advancements in this groundbreaking field. While the road ahead may be long and filled with obstacles, Slayman’s willingness to participate in this pioneering procedure has undoubtedly provided hope and inspiration to countless others facing similar challenges.

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