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Transplant Tests Edited Pig Kidneys

A team at the University of Alabama-Birmingham has transplanted genetically modified pig kidneys into a brain-dead human patient, the Associated Press reports.

It adds that UAB's Jayme Locke and her colleagues removed the patient's kidneys and replaced them with the modified pig ones. The kidneys, which were obtained from Revivicor, part of United Therapeutics, underwent 10 genetic changes to make rejection less likely and to prevent the kidneys from growing too large, the New York Times adds. As the researchers report in The American Journal of Transplantation, there were no signs that the kidneys were being rejected and the kidneys appeared viable. One kidney, the AP notes, was damaged during its retrieval from the pig and made less urine than the other.

Other teams have also recently transplanted genetically modified pig organs. Researchers at New York University attached a gene-modified pig kidney to a brain-dead patient, and, more recently, University of Maryland surgeons transplanted a gene-modified pig heart into a dying human patient, who the Times says remains under observation.

These surgeries have largely been stand-alone experiments, rather than part of a clinical trial, it notes. It adds, however, that the UAB team hopes that their work will enable a small clinical trial to begin by the end of the year.

"The organ shortage is in fact an unmitigated crisis and we've never had a real solution to it," Locke tells the AP.