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62-year-old pig kidney recipient dies two months after transplant

The 62-year-old man, Richard “Rick” Slayman, who made history as the first person to receive a genetically edited pig kidney transplant, has died two months after the groundbreaking surgery, according to his family and a statement from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, where he had the transplant.

David Bennett Sr. was the first person to have his failing heart replaced with that of a genetically altered pig

It may be recalled that another history-making patient, David Bennett Sr., the first person to have his failing heart replaced with that of a genetically altered pig in a groundbreaking operation, also died on March 8, 2022 at the University of Maryland Medical Center, two months after the transplant surgery.

In the case of Slayman, according to the Washington Post on Sunday, the Boston hospital in a statement issued late Saturday said, “Mass General is deeply saddened at the sudden passing of Mr. Rick Slayman. We do not indicate that it was the result of his recent transplant.

“Slayman will forever be seen as a beacon of hope to countless transplant patients worldwide and we are deeply grateful for his trust and willingness to advance the field of xenotransplantation.”

Slayman, who suffered from Type 2 diabetes and hypertension, had received a transplanted human kidney in 2018, but it began to fail five years later

Slayman, who suffered from Type 2 diabetes and hypertension, had received a transplanted human kidney in 2018, but it began to fail five years later.

Doctors got approval from the Food and Drug Administration, which allowed the surgery under its “compassionate use” rules, to try the xenotransplant, the process of implanting organs from one species into another.

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The approval is granted in cases where a patient has a “serious or immediately life-threatening disease or condition” and there are no alternative treatments, according to the FDA.

The four-hour operation involved 69 genetic edits to the pig’s kidney to reduce the risk of rejection

The four-hour operation involved 69 genetic edits to the pig’s kidney to reduce the risk of rejection.

In a statement posted on Mass General’s website, his family said while they were “deeply saddened about the sudden passing of our beloved Rick” they took “great comfort knowing he inspired so many.”

The family said they were “comforted by the optimism he provided patients desperately waiting for a transplant”.

Slayman’s family also thanked the doctors “who truly did everything they could to help give Rick a second chance. Their enormous efforts leading the xenotransplant gave our family seven more weeks with Rick, and our memories made during that time will remain in our minds and hearts.”

Pig kidneys had been transplanted previously into brain-dead patients, but Slayman was the first living person to receive one

“After his transplant, Rick said that one of the reasons he underwent this procedure was to provide hope for the thousands of people who need a transplant to survive,” the family added.

“His legacy will inspire patients, researchers, and health care professionals.”

The transplantation of organs from one species to another is a growing field known as xenotransplantation.

Pig kidneys had been transplanted previously into brain-dead patients, but Slayman was the first living person to receive one.

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Genetically modified pig hearts were transplanted in 2023 into two patients at the University of Maryland, but both lived less than two months.

In the case of the first person to have his failing heart replaced with that of a genetically altered pig, 57-year-old David Bennett Sr., who lived in Maryland, he had severe heart disease, and had agreed to receive the experimental pig’s heart after he was rejected from several waiting lists to receive a human heart.

It was unclear whether his body had rejected the foreign organ. “There was no obvious cause identified at the time of his death,” his hospital’s spokeswoman had said.

Theresa Arike
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