Scientists in the United States have succeeded in making the kidney of a genetically modified pig work on a human, a breakthrough that represents hope for the many people awaiting a transplant.
If success is confirmed, one could indeed imagine that pigs could one day be raised in order to provide organs (lungs, hearts, etc.) to humans who need them.
More than 100,000 Americans are currently on the waiting list for organ transplants.
17 people die every day while waiting for a donation.
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The operation was carried out at NYU Langone Hospital in New York on September 25, using the kidney of a pig that had undergone a genetic modification so that the organ was not rejected by the human body.
The kidney was not strictly speaking implanted inside a human body, but was connected to the blood vessels of a brain-dead patient, whose family had authorized the experiment, at the level of the top of his leg.
during the two and a half days of the experiment, Robert Montgomery, director of the NYU Langone Institute of Transplantation, told AFP.
"He did what he was supposed to do, ... he produced urine."
"No quick rejection"
Such a transplantation had already been attempted in primates, but never yet in humans.
Indeed, the human organism contains antibodies attacking a type of sugar present normally
"on all the cells of the pigs"
, which causes
"an immediate rejection"
of the organ, explains Robert Montgomery.
But this time the animal was genetically modified to no longer produce this sugar and there was no
“rapid kidney rejection”
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Some experts have greeted the news with caution, as the detailed results of the study have not yet been published in a scientific journal.
“It is nevertheless an interesting step on the road to the use of genetically modified pigs as a source of organs for transplants,”
commented Alan Archibald, genetics specialist at the University of Edinburgh.
Xenografts - from animal to human - are not new.
Doctors have attempted cross-species transplants since at least the 17th century, with the earliest experiments focusing on primates.