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Second patient to receive pig kidney transplant dies

Lisa Pisano, the second person to receive a genetically modified pig kidney, has died nearly three months after organ transplant surgery. The 54-year-old New Jersey resident was also the first patient to receive both a mechanical heart pump and an organ transplant after suffering from heart and kidney failure. Photo courtesy of Pisano family/NYU Langone
Lisa Pisano, the second person to receive a genetically modified pig kidney, has died nearly three months after organ transplant surgery. The 54-year-old New Jersey resident was also the first patient to receive both a mechanical heart pump and an organ transplant after suffering from heart and kidney failure. Photo courtesy of Pisano family/NYU Langone

July 9 (UPI) -- A New Jersey woman, the second person ever to receive a transplanted gene-edited pig kidney, has died nearly three months after organ transplant surgery.

NYU Langone Health in New York announced Tuesday that Lisa Pisano, 54, died Sunday after her transplanted kidney was removed May 29 due to poor blood flow from heart medications.

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Pisano, who was suffering from both kidney and heart failure, received the pig kidney on April 12, eight days after surgery to implant a mechanical heart pump. It was the first time two different medical technologies had been implanted in one patient, according to surgeons at NYU Langone Health.

"Lisa's contributions to medicine, surgery and xenotransplantation cannot be overstated," Dr. Robert Montgomery, director of the NYU Langone Transplant Institute, said in a statement Tuesday. "Her bravery gave hope to thousands of people living with end-stage kidney or heart failure who could soon benefit from an alternative supply of organs."

While Pisano was the second patient to receive a kidney from a genetically engineered pig, Richard Slayman, 62, was the first. Slayman died in May, nearly two months after receiving a transplanted pig kidney at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Slayman had been released from the hospital to return home two weeks after his surgery and "free from the burden of dialysis."

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Both experimental pig kidney transplants were approved under the Food and Drug Administration's expanded access program for patients with life-threatening conditions.

Kidneys are the most common organs needed for transplant as nearly 90,000 people remain on the national kidney transplant waitlist, according to the National Kidney Foundation. Doctors predict end-stage kidney disease rates could jump from 29% to 68% in the United States by 2030.

Pisano was not a candidate for a human kidney due to high levels of harmful antibodies in her system, doctors said, adding that it would have taken years to find a human match.

The experimental gene-edited kidney transplanted to Pisano was a good match and developed by United Therapeutics Corp. It was engineered to block a gene responsible for producing a sugar known as alpha-gal. Studies have shown that removing alpha-gal can prevent an antibody reaction and kidney rejection. The pig's thymus gland was also transplanted to prevent rejection.

On Tuesday, Montgomery praised Pisano's bravery and hope that the transplant could work for her as she remained realistic with her chances of survival, saying "at least somebody is going to benefit from it."

"Lisa helped bring us closer to realizing a future where someone does not have to die for another person to live," Montgomery said. "She will forever be remembered for her courage and good nature."

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