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First Recipient of Pig Kidney Transplant Discharged from Hospital

The 62-year-old Massachusetts man who received the world’s first successful transplant of a genetically edited pig kidney was discharged from a Boston hospital on Wednesday. 

Richard Slayman, of Weymouth, a patient with end-stage kidney disease, underwent a successful transplant at Massachusetts General Hospital last month. It was announced to the world a few days later. 

In a statement about his release, Slayman celebrated the chance to enjoy life without the burden of his illness. 

“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,” he said. “I want to thank everyone at Massachusetts General Hospital who cared for me before and after my historic transplant, especially Dr. Williams, Dr. Riella, Dr. Kawai, and the countless nurses who looked after me every day of my stay.”

Rick Slayman
Michelle RoseRick Slayman

Slayman’s surgery on March 16 took approximately four hours. The hospital says the procedure marks a major milestone in the quest to provide more readily available organs to patients.

“The care I received was exceptional and I trust the physicians of the Mass General Brigham health system with my life,” said Slayman. “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. Lastly, 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. My recovery is progressing smoothly, and I ask for privacy at this time.”

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Rick Slayman with his doctors
Michelle RoseRick Slayman with his doctors

Slayman, who has been living with Type 2 diabetes and hypertension for many years, previously received a kidney transplant from a deceased human donor in December 2018 after being on dialysis seven years prior.

The transplanted human kidney showed signs of failure approximately five years later, and Slayman resumed dialysis in May 2023. Since resuming dialysis, he encountered recurrent dialysis vascular access complications requiring visits to the hospital every two weeks for de-clotting and surgical revisions, significantly impacting his quality of life and a common problem among dialysis patients.

Slayman said his nephrologist and the Transplant Center team suggested a pig kidney transplant, carefully explaining the pros and cons of this procedure. 

“He asked me, do you think it’s going to hurt me? Do you think it’s going to work? Do you have confidence in Dr. (Leonardo) Riella and the team that’s bringing this to the clinics? If you say that I have a good chance of thriving after this transplant and getting off dialysis, I want to give it a try again,” said Dr. Winfred Williams, Associate Chair of MGH Nephrology Division. “He was completely exhausted at the failures that he was experiencing in dialysis. The other thing he said, I’m hoping that it can do some good for me. And I knew that if it did work, it would restore his quality of life. But he also said, I can also do good for others coming behind me.”

The hospital says the pig kidney with 69 genomic edits was successfully transplanted into the patient living with end-stage kidney disease.
Massachusetts General Hospital

The latest history-making kidney transplant was completed some 70 years after Mass General Brigham performed the world’s first successful human kidney organ transplant in 1954.

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“The success of this transplant is the culmination of efforts by thousands of scientists and physicians over several decades,” Dr. Tatsuo Kawai, director of the Legorreta Center for Clinical Transplant Tolerance, said. “Our hope is that this transplant approach will offer a lifeline to millions of patients worldwide who are suffering from kidney failure.”

The pig kidney was provided by eGenesis of Cambridge, Massachusetts, from a pig donor that was genetically edited using technology to remove harmful pig genes and add certain human genes to improve its compatibility with humans.

Dr. Leonardo Riella, a transplant nephrologist, became emotional during a statement describing the patient and the procedure.

“We thoroughly discussed with the patient on multiple occasions all the known and unknown risks of the procedure and he bravely decided to go forward with the xenotransplantation,” he said. “My deepest gratitude goes to our MGH team.”

The hospital says the pig kidney with 69 genomic edits was successfully transplanted into the patient living with end-stage kidney disease.
Massachusetts General Hospital

The hospital said scientists also deactivated porcine endogenous retroviruses in the pig donor to eliminate any risk of infection in humans.

The successful procedure in a living recipient is a historic milestone in the emerging field of xenotransplantation – the transplantation of organs or tissues from one species to another – as a potential solution to the worldwide organ shortage.

The procedure was performed under a single FDA Expanded Access Protocol – known as compassionate use – granted to a single patient or group of patients with serious, life-threatening illnesses or conditions to gain access to experimental treatments or trials when no comparable treatment options or therapies exist.

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