Pig-to-Human Kidney Transplant Hits Promising Milestone

Aug 18, 2023

For over a month, a pig’s kidney that was transplanted into a human body has been working properly. It offers hope that animal organs may soon save the lives of thousands of patients awaiting organ donations.  

Dr Robert Montgomery, director of the Langone Transplant Institute, announced the milestone this week. “Is this organ really going to work like a human organ? So far it’s looking like it is,” he told The Associated Press (AP).

The experiment began on July 14. That's when Montgomery’s team put a healthy pig’s kidney into the body of 57-year-old Maurice “Mo” Miller. An aggressive brain tumor had left Miller brain dead. His family chose to donate his body to transplant research. 

“I struggled with it,” Miller’s sister told the AP. But Miller had always loved helping others, she said. So, she signed off on the transplant. “I think this is what my brother would want. So I offered my brother to them.”

Doctors will continue to watch the kidney closely. So far, it has worked to produce urine and filter toxins from Miller’s bloodstream. The kidney came from a pig genetically modified to remove a key gene. The human immune system tends to attack the gene that was removed.   

Over 100,000 people in the US await kidney transplants. Thousands die each year waiting for donor matches. That reality was a key motivator for Montgomery during the transplant process. “Somewhere in the back of your mind is the enormity of what you’re doing,” he told the AP. “Recognizing that this could have a huge impact on the future.”

Photo from Unsplash courtesy of Robina Weermeijer.

Reflect: How can science and technology make a positive impact on the health and well-being of individuals and communities?

Based on the details in the story, how many people in the US await kidney transplants? (Common Core RI.5.1; RI.6.1)
a. 1,000
b. 10,000
c. 100,000
d. 1,000,000
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