Man with Pig Kidney Leaves Hospital, with All Signs Pointing to Success

Previously, Patient Worthy reported on research focused on the use of a pig kidney in a transplant operation involving a human patient.

Richard (Rick) Slayman was released from the hospital two weeks after receiving a kidney transplant from a pig. The Washington Post reported the occasion as being the first of its kind and Rick agreed that it was a new beginning for him. Rick, a resident of Weymouth, Massachusetts, was discharged from the hospital on April 3rd, only three weeks after the successful four-hour surgery. He received a genetically modified pig kidney on the 16th of March at Boston’s Massachusetts General Hospital. This is the first time a person survived after receiving an organ from a non-human species.

Rick was quoted as saying that his last day spent at the hospital, he received one of the “cleanest” bills of health he has had in a long time. Rick, a systems manager for the transportation department, had type 2 diabetes for almost 30 years and had been on dialysis for seven years. Then in 2018 he received a kidney transplant from a deceased human donor.

His veins made dialysis difficult according to his doctor, Winfred Williams, M.D., as they kept clotting and blocking blood flow. Unfortunately, after five years, the transplanted kidney began to fail. It was removed and Rick was put back on dialysis. Rick endured a total of 30 to 40 radiological procedures that kept his veins open, yet the dialysis still did not work properly.

Dr. Williams said that Rick was getting extremely depressed to the point that one day he told her that he just cannot go on much longer. That was the moment Dr. Williams began to think that Rick may be a good candidate for the pig kidney transplant.

Rick agreed to the surgery because of his limited medical options and the thought that a successful transplant would bring hope to thousands of people who are in need of a transplant.

In order for the doctors to proceed with the transplant, they had to ask for approval from the FDA under its “compassionate use” rules. The rules are applicable in instances where the patient has a serious life-threatening condition with no available alternative treatments.

As an additional precaution, and to reduce the possibility of Rick’s immune system attacking the pig’s organ after transplantation, the researchers had to make 69 edits to the pig’s genetic code. Doctors are hoping that transplants will one day make dialysis obsolete. Rick thanked the hospital staff and its doctors who participated in the procedure and gave their support during his treatment.

Researchers Worked for Decades

There are over 100,000 people waiting on the nation’s organ transplant list but less than half that number are able to secure a transplant. Many die while waiting and others do not even appear on the list because of not being good candidates for a transplant. Meanwhile, researchers have been at work for decades attempting to discover a way to use pig organs in place of human organs.

Rick’s procedure was heralded as an important moment in medical history. His surgeon, Dr. Tatsuo Kawai, gave details to reporters about the surgery. The pig was raised in an undisclosed location in the mid-west. It was flown to Boston for the procedure according to Mike Curtis, the CEO of eGenesis, a biotech company breeding and raising gene-edited pigs for transplant.

Rick’s recovery is progressing well, and he is now able to spend time with his family and friends without the burden of dialysis. Rick thanks everyone for their support and especially thanks patients who are waiting for a kidney transplant. He believes this is a new beginning not just for himself but for the thousands on the transplant list.

Rose Duesterwald

Rose Duesterwald

Rose became acquainted with Patient Worthy after her husband was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) six years ago. During this period of partial remission, Rose researched investigational drugs to be prepared in the event of a relapse. Her husband died February 12, 2021 with a rare and unexplained occurrence of liver cancer possibly unrelated to AML.

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