Pig kidneys transplanted into brain-dead human in new study
For the first time, scientists have successfully transplanted genetically modified pig kidneys into the body of a brain-dead human, an important step toward animal organs potentially becoming viable for transplants to save human lives in the future, something that could help address organ shortages worldwide.
On Thursday, researchers with the University of Alabama (UAB) published the first peer-reviewed study to document this process in depth.
The pig kidneys were taken from pigs that had been genetically modified with 10 key gene edits in order to make the kidneys capable of being transplanted into a human body.
After transplantation, researchers confirmed that the kidneys were not rejected and were able to filter blood and produce urine for the three days of the study.
"This game-changing moment in the history of medicine represents a paradigm shift and a major milestone in the field of xenotransplantation, which is arguably the best solution to the organ shortage crisis," Jayme Locke, director of the Comprehensive Transplant Institute in UAB's Department of Surgery and lead surgeon for the study, said in a press release.
"We have bridged critical knowledge gaps and obtained the safety and feasibility data necessary to begin a clinical trial in living humans with end-stage kidney failure disease."
The hope is that the procedure researchers followed for the transplantation could establish a model to be followed in the future when performing a transplant of a pig kidney into a living human recipient.
Researchers are proposing that this procedure be called "The Parsons Model" after the donor who made this study possible.
Jim Parsons, 57, was a registered organ donor when an accident left him brain-dead.
"He was on a dirt bike doing what he loved most," Julie O'Hara, his ex-wife, explained. "His favourite activity in the world."
Parsons had been riding dirt bikes since he was a child, having participated in hundreds of races.
"He'd had many accidents before, and this was just a freak accident that took him from us," she said. "He was declared brain-dead, and I had requested to speak with someone about organ donation and to know what he was able to give."
But shortly before he was to undergo surgery to remove some of his organs for potential donation, O'Hara received a call, asking if she would speak to Dr. Locke about a study.
After the study was explained to them, they called a big family meeting to make sure everyone agreed.
"We all, unanimously, without a doubt, 100 per cent, is what we decided he would've wanted," she said.
His daughter Ally added that "there wasn't any question."
His family agreed to let researchers keep Parsons on a ventilator in order to keep his body functioning so that researchers could attempt the transplant.
"Jim was a never-met-a-stranger kind of guy who could talk to anyone and had no enemies -- none," O'Hara said.
"Jim would have wanted to save as many people as he could with his death, and if he knew he could potentially save thousands and thousands of people by doing this, he would have had no hesitation. Our dream is that no other person dies waiting for a kidney, and we know that Jim is very proud that his death could potentially bring so much hope to others."
THE POTENTIAL IMPACT
Kidney disease affects hundreds of thousands of people worldwide. According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, in 2019, more than 23,000 Canadians were receiving dialysis treatments for chronic kidney failure.
Those on dialysis either have to remain on dialysis for the rest of their lives or receive a kidney transplant -- but the waiting list can be years long.
Dr. Selwyn Vickers, dean of the School of Medicine at UAB, said this new research is significant not only for patients waiting for kidney transplants but for families who fear losing their loved ones while on a waiting list.
"There are thousands of people who need organ transplantations that are on a list and the amount of organs that are available are clearly limited," he said. "And there are a number of people who die waiting in that process."
Locke said that what this experiment allowed them to do was to really test feasibility and safety when it comes to transplanting a pig kidney into a human being.
"And that's really never been done before," she said.
There have recently been developments in the xenotransplant world, but every new step is important. In October, it was announced that researchers at NYU Langone Health had performed a similar experiment to place one pig kidney into a brain-dead human patient.
And this month, surgeons in a Maryland hospital placed a pig heart into a living human patient in an attempt to save his life. He is still being monitored to see how he does.
UAB developed its own cross-match test to see if the pig donor and Parsons would be compatible enough for a transplant, something that is crucial for moving forward in transplanting a pig kidney in a living human.
"Because you can imagine no one's going to go for taking a kidney if they don't know up front whether or not it's going to be rejected," Locke said. "So having that cross-match was critically important."
Pigs have long been considered a possibility for organ transplant in humans because their organs are of a comparable size. It was only recently that scientists surpassed the hurdle of pig organs being rejected when placed in a human environment.
The pigs used for the study had been genetically modified in order to produce kidneys that were able to be used in a human. Crucially, several important human genes had been added, while three pig growth carbohydrate antigens and the pig growth hormone receptor gene had been removed. These specific pigs also didn't express red blood cell antigens and could serve as universal donors when it comes to blood type.
Although pig organs had been tested for transplant in non-human primates before, this was one of the first times that scientists could test if a pig kidney could function in a human body.
"Non-human primates don't have the same mean arterial pressure," she explained. "Neither do pigs. We didn't know if the vascular integrity would hold up, for example."
Using a brain-dead recipient is a unique way to test safety without enrolling a living human being in a clinical trial that could have ended disastrously.
"We were able to approach the family about our study, and to say that they were remarkable is an understatement," Locke said.
She also said that "Mr. Parsons and his family allowed us to replicate precisely how we would perform this transplant in a living human. Their powerful contribution will save thousands of lives, and that could begin in the very near future."
In publishing their detailed study about the process, they've also accomplished a first by establishing a preclinical human model, Locke said, which essentially means that it sets the precedent for potentially testing new medical advancements in brain-dead donors whose family consents.
"This human preclinical model is a way to evaluate the safety and feasibility of the pig-to-non-human primate model, without risk to a living human," Locke said.
"Our study demonstrates that major barriers to human xenotransplantation have been surmounted, identifies where new knowledge is needed to optimize xenotransplantation outcomes in humans, and lays the foundation for the establishment of a novel preclinical human model for further study."
MORE POLITICS NEWS
'Anger that I haven't seen before': Singh harassment incident puts renewed spotlight on politicians' security
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh's recent encounter with protesters at an Ontario election campaign stop, where he was verbally harassed, is casting a renewed spotlight on politicians' security, with Singh telling CTV News that he's witnessing a level of anger he hasn't seen before.
The stunning leak of a U.S. Supreme Court draft opinion to strike down the landmark Roe v. Wade decision on abortion rights seized political attention in Ottawa on Tuesday. In the House of Commons, MPs' persisting differing views were on display after a symbolic push to affirm abortion rights failed, and the Conservative caucus were told not to comment on the leak.
Six candidates are on the ballot to become the Conservative Party's next leader. In holding rallies, doing media interviews, and participating in debates, each contender has been releasing details of their policy platforms. Here's a snapshot of where the candidates stand on the economy, housing, climate, defence and social issues.
The federal Liberals and New Democrats have finalized an agreement that, if maintained, would keep Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government in power until June 2025, in exchange for progress on longstanding NDP priorities. Trudeau announced Tuesday morning that the confidence-and-supply agreement has been brokered, and is effective immediately.
Conservative Party members will be electing their new leader in September. Six candidates have secured their place on the ballot, after meeting all of the party's eligibility requirements. Here's a snapshot of who each candidate is, their political histories, and what kind of campaign they're running.
There's a lesson for Canada's political leaders in the short life and quick death of Jason Kenney as premier of Alberta, writes Don Martin in an exclusive opinion column for CTVNews.ca.
OPINION | Don Martin: Ford on cruise control to victory in Ontario while Alberta votes on killing Kenney as UCP leader
It's becoming a make-or-break week for two Conservative premiers as their futures pivot on a pair of defining moments, writes Don Martin in an exclusive opinion column for CTVNews.ca.
In an exclusive column for CTVNews.ca, Don Martin weighs in on the Conservative leadership debate highlights and fumbles in Edmonton on Wednesday night.
As was the case with the Freedom Convoy, it’s the organizers of Rolling Thunder who are giving the event's modest purpose some ominous overtones, writes Don Martin in an exclusive opinion piece for CTVNews.ca.
OPINION | Don Martin: In the heart of Liberal-owned Toronto, an unlikely Conservative rock star takes the stage
Conservative leadership frontrunner Pierre Poilievre is attracting big crowds to large halls in unlikely locations. And if his early romp lasts, he'll be impossible to beat, writes Don Martin in an exclusive opinion column for CTVNews.ca.
ANALYSIS & INSIGHTS
CTVNews.ca Top Stories
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says his 'heart breaks' for those impacted by the 'horrific' shooting at an elementary school in Texas that killed 21 people on Tuesday.
With Quebec confirming an additional 10 cases of monkeypox identified in the province, the Public Health Agency of Canada says they are monitoring a total of 15 cases across the country.
Crews are working to restore power to more than 150,000 Ontario customers who are still without hydro after a deadly storm swept through the province on Saturday.
Bill 96, the provincial government's controversial legislation aimed at protecting the French language in Quebec, has been adopted in the National Assembly.
Supermodel Kate Moss, a former girlfriend of Johnny Depp, denied Wednesday that she had ever been pushed or assaulted by Depp during the course of their relationship.
Connecticut U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, who came to Congress representing Sandy Hook, begged his colleagues to finally pass legislation addressing the nation's gun violence problem as the latest school shooting unfolded Tuesday in Uvalde, Texas.
Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr refused to talk about basketball at a pre-game news conference on Tuesday and instead called for stricter gun control after the killing of at least 18 children and an adult in a Texas school shooting.
Russia's invasion of Ukraine may have marked the start of "a third world war," and Russian President Vladimir Putin must be defeated "as soon as possible" if the world wants to preserve civilization, said billionaire and philanthropist George Soros.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and other senior officials bear responsibility for a culture of rule-breaking that resulted in several parties that breached the U.K.'s COVID-19 lockdown rules, a report into the events said Wednesday.
Winds in the destructive storm that hit Ottawa and the region on Saturday reached 190 kilometres per hour in some areas, researchers say.
As the inquiry into Nova Scotia’s mass shooting moves its public proceedings to Truro, many of the family members affected by the tragedy and their lawyers are boycotting the proceedings over the next week.
An Ottawa judge has decided that 'Freedom Convoy' organizer Tamara Lich will remain released on bail while awaiting trial.
An 18-year-old gunman opened fire Tuesday at a Texas elementary school, killing at least 19 children as he went from classroom to classroom, officials said, in the deadliest school shooting in nearly a decade and the latest gruesome moment for a country scarred by a string of massacres. The attacker was killed by law enforcement.
Ferdinand Marcos Jr. was proclaimed the next president of the Philippines by a joint session of Congress on Wednesday following a landslide election triumph 36 years after his dictator father was ousted in a pro-democracy uprising.
North Korea test-launched a suspected intercontinental ballistic missile and two shorter-range weapons into the sea Wednesday, South Korea said, hours after U.S. President Joe Biden ended a trip to Asia where he reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to defend its allies in the face of the North's nuclear threat.
Ukraine's president said Wednesday that Russia must pull back to its pre-war positions as a first step before diplomatic talks, a negotiating line that Moscow is unlikely to agree to anytime soon.
The children at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, were two days away from their summer break when Tuesday's massacre unfolded.
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Wednesday offered his condolences to the relatives of the victims of the Texas school shooting, the worst school massacre in the United States for nearly a decade.
Candidates running for leadership of the federal Conservative party will appear on stage tonight for its French-language debate.
Canada is sending an additional 20,000 rounds of ammunition to Ukraine for the Ukrainian military to use in its ongoing defence against the Russians. This ammunition—155mm calibre, as well as fuses and charge bags—is being donated, but comes at a cost of $98 million, according to the federal government.
A new report finds that members of Canada's news industry are suffering "alarming" levels of work-related stress and trauma.
An extensive study of thousands of COVID-19 patients in Ontario hospitals found links between the severity of their infections and the levels of common air pollutants they experience.
After a reprieve of months, confirmed cases of COVID-19 are surging in the southern tip of South America. But officials in Argentina, Chile and Uruguay hope high vaccination rates mean this latest wave will not be as deadly as previous ones.
Measuring the expansion rate of the universe was one of the Hubble Space Telescope's main goals when it was launched in 1990. Over the past 30 years, the space observatory has helped scientists discover and refine that accelerating rate -- as well as uncover a mysterious wrinkle that only brand-new physics may solve.
Boeing managed to dock a spacecraft at the International Space Station late last week, but it was not without several minor hangups.
The race to resume supersonic passenger flights nearly two decades after the retirement of Concorde was offered a glimmer of excitement on Monday when plane manufacturer Bombardier revealed high speed achievements while confirming the launch of its new business jet.
Matthew McConaughey, who was born in Uvalde where at least 21 people were killed Tuesday, described gun violence as an "epidemic we can control."
Canadian musician Jacob Hoggard is expected to return to the stand today at his sex assault trial.
Supermodel Kate Moss, a former girlfriend of Johnny Depp, denied Wednesday that she had ever been pushed or assaulted by Depp during the course of their relationship.
India is restricting its sugar exports to 10 million tons in the current season to help maintain domestic availability and keep prices stable.
Retailers had been beaten down in recent days over concerns that soaring inflation was eating into their profits. Some of those concerns dissipated after the high-end department store operator Nordstrom reported higher sales and raise it profit forecast.
Canada depends on U.S. producers for its own supply of formula, and with the Biden administration again using emergency wartime measures to meet the moment, trade and food security experts alike are worried about the knock-on effects.
Why does smoke seem to follow you around a campfire? B.C. research scientist Kerry Anderson told CTVNews.ca the answer actually boils down to physics.
A whole month of unlimited transport in Germany is just US$9.50 -- that's a great deal at any time, but in a time of fuel price hikes, rocketing car rental rates and a worldwide cost of living crisis, it becomes unbeatable.
This summer, auction house Sotheby's will display some of history's most influential tiaras -- many which have not been seen by the public in decades -- in a new exhibition called 'Power & Image: Royal & Aristocratic Tiaras.'
Roman Abramovich's 19-year ownership of Chelsea is ending after the British government approved the sale of the Premier League club by the sanctioned Russian oligarch to a consortium fronted by Los Angeles Dodgers part-owner Todd Boehly.
Brittney Griner's wife Cherelle wants U.S. President Joe Biden to secure her partner's release, doing whatever is necessary to get the WNBA star home from Russia where she has been detained for more than three months.
The federal and British Columbia governments are each committing $15 million in support of the 2025 Invictus Games in Vancouver and Whistler.
With the price of gas rising above $2 per litre and setting new records in Canada this year, CTVNews.ca looks at what goes into the price per litre of gasoline and where the situation could go from here.
A class action lawsuit is accusing three automakers and a parts manufacturer of knowingly selling vehicles containing air bag inflators that are at risk of exploding. Two deaths and at least four injuries have been linked to such explosions.
Some of British Columbia's more creative vehicle owners received bad news over the last two years: you can't put everything on a licence plate.