First Pig Kidney Transplant Recipient Buys the Farm Just Months Later

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Just months after 62-year-old Rick Slayman made medical history as the first person to survive receiving a genetically edited pig kidney, he passed away. First reported by CNN, he was diagnosed with end-stage kidney disease in 2023, and he received the transplant back in March as a last-ditch effort to save his life. Recovering well by nearly all metrics, Massachusetts General, where the surgery was performed, claims that the transplant appears to have had no bearing on his death.

Well before the surgery, Slayman’s body had taken heavy damage from diabetes and high blood pressure for years. He had spent 11 years on the transplant list before receiving a human kidney back in 2018. By 2023, though, it had begun showing signs of failure, and he was back on dialysis. Looking at an uphill battle for another human kidney, the idea of using one from a pig seemed like a no-brainer.

Taking four hours to complete, doctors believed that not only would he recover completely, but that it could potentially give him years of extra life. While previous attempts at using pig hearts in humans resulted in them still dying weeks after receiving them, experts believed the kidney would be different. Given the amount of editing that was done by the bioengineering firm EGenesis, before the transplant was attempted, many believed issues with those hearts had been negotiated in the kidney.

Following his death, Slayman’s family provided a statement to commend Massachusetts General for undertaking such a procedure. They said that his whole reason for even attempting the surgery was to encourage others to push the limits and to try and do more to help save others. In the future, they hope his actions inspire researchers and potential patients to take on such tough procedures.