New York, AS —
Researchers across America are racing to learn how to use animal organs to save human lives. A high-stakes trial in the dead offers an excellent complete exercise.
Director of the New York University (NYU) Langone Health transplant institute, Dr. Robert Montgomery, “We’ve done, you know, four transplants. Two pig kidneys, two pig hearts in brain dead people and donating their whole bodies to experiments. But those organs function for a very short time, two to three days. We learned a lot from that. But we realized that in order to really have a big impact and make xenotransplantation possible clinically, we needed much longer observations.”
Montgomery was part of the NYU Langone Health surgical team that on July 14 transplanted a pig kidney into a brain-dead person, a condition in which the brain no longer functions and is legally considered dead. For more than a month, the kidney was functioning normally.
It’s the longest time an animal organ has functioned in a human, even if the person is dead, and an important step towards a graft that the team hopes will eventually be tried on living patients. This experiment is not over. Dr. Robert Montgomery told the Associated Press news agency researchers were now ready to track kidney performance for a second month.
“So, we’re hoping that this trial in deceased people will show a lot of ground and get us to a point where, the FDA feels that we’ve answered these questions and we’re ready, to do the first trial in a living human,” he added.
The FDA that Montgomery meant was the agency in America that oversees drugs and food. After surgery, he said the pig’s kidney function “appeared to be better than a human kidney.
Montgomery explained, “The kidney immediately started producing urine. It was amazing. We stood there, removed the clamps and human blood went into the pig kidney, turned the kidney this beautiful pink color, and a few minutes later, urine started coming out of ureters. It’s amazing. I never get tired of looking at it.”
According to Montgomery, the success of the transplant gave the whole team new hope that animal-to-human organ transplantation could become a reality in the future and it would be extraordinary.
Back Dr. Robert Montgomery, “I’ve done thousands of surgeries. Like anything else, this operation has to be perfect. But I also realize what I’m doing will have a big impact on the future of transplants.”
For decades animal-to-human organ transplant trials failed because the human immune system directly attacks foreign tissue. The success of the NYU Langone Health team and the success of experiments elsewhere are increasingly making inter-creature grafts possible. (ka/lt)