Pig organ transplants inching closer to human trials: 4 notes

Several reports about successful pig organ transplant procedures have emerged in 2023, continuing to lay the foundation for eventual human clinical trials and possibly a future in which xenotransplants become the norm for patients in need of a vital organ. 

The work leading up to these advancements is the culmination of more than 20 years of experiments, trials, failures and developments, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.

In 2022, according to the association, four notable strides were made toward improving outcomes in trials of pig organ transplants. Institutions including Baltimore-based University of Maryland Medical Center, NYU Langone Health in New York City, and the University of Alabama at Birmingham moved the needle in xenotransplant research.

Now, some of the same institutions that led progress in this realm in 2022 are also driving the latest developments in 2023:

  1. Revivicor, the company behind a pig-to-human heart transplant in 2022, announced that a research and development center for developing pig populations for experimental organ surgeries would open in 2024 in Christiansburg, Va., and provide institutions like Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins University, the University of Maryland and NYU in New York.

  2. After performing the transplant of a genetically modified pig kidney into a decedent organ recipient in July, 61 days later, NYU Langone physicians completed what is said to be the "longest-documented case of a genetically engineered pig kidney functioning in a human body," according to a Sept. 14 report.

  3. A team at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore successfully completed a transplant of a genetically modified pig heart into a human patient with end-stage cardiovascular disease for a second time. The first also took place at the Baltimore-based medical center in 2022.

  4. As of Oct. 12, a monkey in a clinical trial survived two years with a genetically modified pig kidney. Now the study's success is moving the needle toward gaining FDA approval to begin similar clinical trials in humans.

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