Image copyright Dr Ajay Gupta
A pig kidney transplant has successfully been carried out on a woman in the UK – the first time this has happened.
A pig with a human kidney removed was transferred to a woman who had her own kidney removed several years ago.
The pig kidney was grown from a cow’s, but farmed offsite from its mother to enable the transplant to happen.
The hope is that if the procedure is successful, it will one day be carried out for serious organ failure patients.
The ethical challenges and other pressing issues remain, including whether to hold animal donation in the same ethical category as human organs.
Image copyright Imgur Image caption The pig has its own kidney removed
A second pig kidney transplant was planned for this week to test this second approach, but it has now been postponed indefinitely.
Dr Ajay Gupta, director of transplantation at Queen’s University Belfast, said the “very important” techniques being used were still at an early stage and ethical dilemmas and other concerns needed to be addressed.
He said: “We are currently working on creating a more complete animal that we can transport to where the human kidney is and specifically target the necessary properties needed to replace the kidneys.
“Ultimately, the aim would be to use a mix of pig and cow or sheep kidneys, with their ability to express advanced antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties, to replace the human kidneys.”
A separate experiment has involved controlling the nitrogen, phosphorus and acidity of pigs’ urine as a possible test of their compatibility with human kidneys.