A team of surgeons at NYU’s Langone Health medical center recently managed to successfully transplant a pig kidney into a human patient without the body rejecting the organ—the first major operation of its kind, and one that apparently is raising a lot of (human) eyebrows.
Although similar tests have been conducted using non-human primates, as well as the fact that pig heart valves have been used as human transplants for some time, this is by far the most advanced procedure on record.
As reported by the BBC, said donor pig had previously been genetically modified so that its kidney would essentially fool its mammalian cousin’s body into accepting it. Creepy, no? Not only that, but the experiment’s human is technically brain-dead “with no prospect of recovering,” so... yeah. It’s a very seasonally appropriate science news story.
Anticipating ethical questions, lead investigator Dr. Robert Montgomery threw some shade towards critics, telling the BBC, “I certainly understand the concern and what I would say is that currently about 40% of patients who are waiting for a transplant die before they receive one,” later adding that, “We use pigs as a source of food, we use pigs for medicinal uses—for valves, for medication. I think it’s not that different.”
He’s also, apparently, himself a heart transplant recipient—which is kind of an ace in the hole, if we’re being honest here.
In any case, a peer-reviewed report of the experiment is due to be published sometime in the near future, so it’ll be interesting to see the medical advancement’s ramifications within the organ transplant world.
If nothing else, it certainly offers a novel—albeit somewhat morbid—solution to Europe’s ongoing wild boar crisis. No more Shakiras need suffer at the hooves of those bristly cretins.
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