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First person to receive genetically modified pig kidney transplant dies : NPR

Rick Slayman is pictured at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, where he became the first person to receive a genetically modified pig kidney transplant.

Michelle Rose/Massachusetts General Hospital

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Michelle Rose/Massachusetts General Hospital

Richard “Rick” Slayman, the first human to receive a genetically modified pig kidney transplant, died nearly two months after the procedure.

Slayman, who suffered from end-stage kidney disease, underwent a transplant in March at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston at the age of 62.

The hospital said in a statement Saturday that there was “no indication” that his death was the result of the transplant. The transplant surgeon had said he hoped the graft would work for at least two years.

“The Mass General transplant team is deeply saddened by the sudden passing of Mr. Rick Slayman,” the hospital’s statement read. “Mr. Slayman will forever be remembered as a beacon of hope for countless transplant patients around the world and we are deeply grateful for his trust and drive to advance the field of xenotransplantation.”

The surgery was a milestone in the field of xenotransplantation – the transplanting of organs from one species to another – as a way to alleviate organ shortages for people in need of transplants. The effort to genetically modify animal organs aims to prevent the human body from rejecting foreign tissue.

In a statement shared by the hospital, Slayman’s family thanked his doctors: “Their tremendous efforts in completing the xenotransplantation gave our family seven additional weeks with Rick, and the memories created during this time will remain in our minds and our hearts.”

His family said he was kind, quick-witted and “fiercely devoted to his family, friends and colleagues.”

“After his transplant, Rick said that one of the reasons he underwent this procedure was to give hope to the thousands of people who need a transplant to survive,” the text continues. “Rick achieved this goal and his hope and optimism will endure forever.”

Last month, a 54-year-old New Jersey woman became the second person to receive a genetically modified pig kidney transplant.

In the United States, more than 100,000 people are on the waiting list for an organ. Thousands of people die every year before they can get one.

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