Richard “Rick” Slayman dies


Richard “Rick” Slayman, the first person to undergo a kidney transplant from a genetically modified pig while still alive, passed away around two months after the groundbreaking surgery. The 62-year-old underwent the experimental procedure at Massachusetts General Hospital in March. Although the hospital emphasized that there was no clear indication linking the transplant to his demise, the exact circumstances surrounding his death remain unclear.


Slayman had previously undergone a conventional kidney transplant in 2018, but unfortunately, it failed last year, resulting in complications with dialysis. In light of his situation, his medical team proposed the innovative pig kidney transplant as a potential solution. This surgery was part of a pioneering xenotransplantation program aimed at utilizing animal cells, tissues, or organs to treat human patients.


Despite the ultimate outcome, Slayman’s family expressed deep appreciation for his medical team, stating, “Their tireless efforts in pioneering xenotransplantation allowed our family seven more precious weeks with Rick, and the memories forged during that time will forever be cherished.” They also highlighted Slayman’s unwavering commitment to offering hope to thousands of individuals awaiting transplants, affirming, “Rick achieved that aspiration, and his spirit of hope and optimism will endure indefinitely.”


Xenotransplantation programs have encountered hurdles in the past due to the rejection of foreign animal tissue by the human immune system. However, recent advancements involve utilizing genetically modified pigs with organs more akin to those of humans. Another patient, Lisa Pisano, underwent a similar transplant in April, alongside the implantation of a mechanical heart pump.


While Slayman’s passing represents a setback, his trailblazing participation in this experimental treatment may pave the way for future breakthroughs in xenotransplantation research.

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