Woman goes back on dialysis after doctors remove pig kidney

W.Ashington — A woman who received a pig kidney transplant was put back on dialysis because surgeons had to remove the gradually failing organ after just 47 days.

Lisa Pisano was the second person to receive a kidney from a genetically modified pig, and NYU Langone Health announced that she is in stable condition after surgery to remove the organ earlier this week.

The first patient to receive a pig kidney transplant, Richard “Rick” Slayman at Massachusetts General Hospital, died in early May, nearly two months after his transplant. Doctors said there was no indication he died as a result of the experimental transplant.

Pisano’s heart and kidneys were failing when, in a pair of dramatic surgeries in April, doctors implanted a mechanical pump to keep his heart and then the pig’s kidney beating.

At first he seemed to be recovering well. But Dr. Robert Montgomery, who led the transplant, said there were “unique challenges” in managing both the heart pump and the new kidney. His blood pressure dropped too low several times for blood to flow optimally to the kidney.

The kidney lost function until doctors could no longer justify keeping her on immunosuppressive medications, Montgomery said in a statement Friday.

A recent kidney biopsy showed no signs of rejection (the biggest concern in highly experimental transplants from animals to humans), but there was “significant damage” from insufficient blood flow, he said. New York University will further study the explanted kidney to learn more about how it reacted inside a living person.

Montgomery noted that Pisano was not a candidate for the life-prolonging heart pump while on dialysis, and her heart disease, in turn, precluded a traditional kidney transplant.

“We hope Lisa returns home to her family soon,” he said. “Her strength and bravery in the face of her adversity inspire and drive us as we continue to pursue the hope and promise of xenotransplantation.”

Pisano told the Associated Press in April that he knew pig kidney might not work, but “I just took a chance. And you know, worst case scenario, if it didn’t work for me, it could have worked for someone else.”

More than 100,000 people are on the transplant waiting list in the United States, most need a kidney, and thousands die waiting. Hoping to fill the shortage of donated organs, several biotech companies are genetically modifying pigs so that their organs look more like humans and are less likely to be destroyed by people’s immune systems.

It is expected that formal studies of these bodies will begin next year. Meanwhile, New York University and other research teams have temporarily transplanted pig kidneys and hearts into brain-dead cadavers, with promising results. In addition to Mass General’s pig kidney transplant, the University of Maryland transplanted pig hearts into two men who had no other options, and both died within months.

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