Richard Slayman: World's First Living Patient to Receive Genetically Modified Kidney from Pig Dies Two Weeks after Pioneering Surgery

The groundbreaking kidney procedure marked the second transplant for Slayman, who had been battling end-stage kidney disease and Type 2 diabetes for years.

The first living patient to receive a kidney from a genetically modified pig has died, two months after undergoing the groundbreaking transplant, his family and medical team confirmed on Saturday. Richard "Rick" Slayman, 62, was discharged in March, around two weeks after undergoing the transplant procedure at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

Slayman, from Boston, was grappling with end-stage kidney disease when he received the kidney from a pig that had undergone 69 genomic alterations. Experts hailed this procedure as a new era in organ transplantation. Unfortunately, Slayman died despite doctors previously noting that he was "recovering well" at the time of his discharge from the hospital on April 6.

Initial Success Ends in Disappointment

Richard Slayman
Richard Slayman Facebook

There is no indication from anyone involved in the procedure or from Slayman's family that his death was connected to the transplant. "Their enormous efforts leading the xenotransplant gave our family seven more weeks with Rick, and our memories made during that time will remain in our minds and hearts," his family said, referring to the practice of using animal cells, tissues, or organs to heal human patients.

Slayman, hailing from the Boston suburb of Weymouth, decided to undergo the bold procedure due to ongoing complications with dialysis, which saw him being hospitalized every two weeks.

"I saw it not only as a way to help me, but a way to provide hope for the thousands of people who need a transplant to survive," he said in a statement at the time.

"Rick accomplished that goal, and his hope and optimism will endure forever," his family said Saturday.

"Mr. Slayman will forever be seen as a beacon of hope to countless transplant patients worldwide, and we are deeply grateful for his trust and willingness to advance the field of xenotransplantation," the facility said, according to NBC Boston.

"We offer our heartfelt condolences to Mr. Slayman's family and loved ones as they remember an extraordinary person whose generosity and kindness touched all who knew him."

Landmark Move but Success Yet to be Proven

Richard Slayman
Richard Slayman with the medical team that carried out the groundbreaking surgery Facebook

The four-hour surgery took place at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in Boston under the Expanded Access Protocol, also known as "compassionate use" clearance. This protocol is only invoked when patients facing life-threatening illnesses have exhausted all other treatment options.

The groundbreaking kidney procedure marked the second transplant for Slayman, who had been battling end-stage kidney disease and Type 2 diabetes for years. His first transplant, which was from a human donor, took place in 2018 after seven years of relying on dialysis.

Slayman was hopeful and optimistic upon leaving the hospital after the historic operation.

"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," Slayman said in a statement.

Before Slayman, pig kidneys had only been experimented with on brain-dead donors, while two men who received pig hearts both passed away within months.

These attempts often met with failure because the human immune system would reject the foreign animal tissue. Recent procedures, like Slayman's, use organs from pigs that have been genetically modified to be more similar to human organs.

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