BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Surgeons at the University of Alabama at Birmingham successfully transplanted a pig’s kidneys to a brain-dead man.
The kidneys were transplanted into his abdomen the same way human organ transplants are done, surgeons said.
The surgical team reports that the organs survived with no sign of rejection from the man’s body.
The man’s body was later taken off life support.
Medical experts are still trying to figure out if an animal-to-human organ transplant is safe to perform in living patients.
One kidney was damaged when it was removed from the animal and did not work properly.
No viruses from the pig were transmitted to the human patient, and no animal cells were found in his bloodstream.
Other questions also remain – including how long pig organs can survive, how they should be genetically altered, and how living patients should qualify to test a pig organ.
This transplant performed at the University of Alabama is just the latest in a series of pig organ transplantations.
In December, surgeons at the University of Maryland transplanted a genetically modified pig’s heart into a patient with heart failure.
The patient is still under observation.
In September, New York University surgeons attached a genetically modified pig’s kidney to a person who was brain dead and on a ventilator.
The kidney remained outside the body and worked normally.
While doctors work to establish if these transplants are safe and successful, the U.S. is dealing with a shortage of organ donors.
The Health Resource & Services Administration reports more than 106,000 people are on the national transplant waiting list, including children.
17 people die each day waiting for an organ transplant.