‘A new beginning’: US man who received pig kidney transplant returns home

<span>Surgeons perform the world’s first genetically modified pig kidney transplant into a living human at Massachusetts general hospital on 16 March in Boston.</span><span>Photograph: Michelle Rose/AP</span>
Surgeons perform the world’s first genetically modified pig kidney transplant into a living human at Massachusetts general hospital on 16 March in Boston.Photograph: Michelle Rose/AP

The Massachusetts man who received the world’s first transplant of a genetically modified pig kidney has returned home less than three weeks after the pioneering surgery, and says he feels just fine.

Richard Slayman, who had been diagnosed with end-stage renal disease, was discharged from Boston’s Massachusetts general hospital on Wednesday, and thanked doctors who performed the four-hour operation on 16 March.

“This moment – leaving the hospital today with one of the cleanest bills of health I’ve had in a long time – is one I wished would come for many years. Now, it’s a reality and one of the happiest moments of my life,” Slayman, 62, said in a statement released by the hospital.

“I’m excited to resume spending time with my family, friends, and loved ones free from the burden of dialysis that has affected my quality of life for many years. I want to thank anyone who has seen my story and sent well-wishes, especially patients waiting for a kidney transplant. Today marks a new beginning not just for me, but for them as well.”

Slayman, a manager with the state’s transportation department, suffered years of failing kidneys. Doctors said after the transplant that his new kidney could last for many years, but they also highlighted the unknowns of any first-of-a-kind surgery.

Scientists at the hospital partnered with biotechnology company eGenesis to genetically edit the kidney for transplant, a multi-year process that removed harmful pig genes from the organ and inactivated porcine retroviruses that could potentially cause infection.

They also added human genes into the kidney to increase its compatibility with any recipient.

“Our hope is that this transplant approach will offer a lifeline to millions of patients worldwide who are suffering from kidney failure,” Dr Tatsuo Kawa, director of the hospital’s Legorreta Center for Clinical Transplant Tolerance, said after the surgery.

Managers at eGenesis hailed the procedure as a historic milestone in the emerging field of xenotransplantation, the transplant of organs or tissues from one species to another.

A worldwide shortage of organs has left more than 100,000 people in the US in need of a transplant, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing, and 17 people die each day waiting for an organ.

Kidneys are the most in-demand organ, and the National Institutes of Health predicts a 29-68% increase in patients with end-stage kidney disease by 2030.

Joren Madsen, director of the hospital’s transplant center, said Slayman represented “a beacon of hope for countless individuals suffering from end-stage renal disease and [the procedure] opens a new frontier in organ transplantation”.

The statement released by the hospital on Wednesday included a photograph of Slayman with his partner, Faren, and three of the doctors who performed the surgery.

“The care I received was exceptional and I trust physicians of the Mass General Brigham health system with my life ,” Slayman said. He added that his recovery was “progressing smoothly”.