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Richard Slayman, the First Man to Receive Pig Kidney Dies at 62

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Richard “Rick” Slayman, the first man to receive a genetically modified pig kidney transplant, has passed away two months after the groundbreaking operation, according to the hospital that performed the procedure.

Slayman, 62, was suffering from end-stage kidney disease before undergoing the historic transplant in March at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). The hospital stated that there was no indication his death was a result of the transplant.

While transplants of other organs from genetically modified pigs have failed in the past, Slayman’s operation was hailed as a historic milestone. In addition to kidney disease, he also suffered from Type 2 diabetes and hypertension. In 2018, he had received a human kidney transplant, but it began to fail after five years.

Following his pig kidney transplant on March 16, his doctors confirmed that he no longer needed dialysis as the new organ was functioning well.

“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,” MGH said in a statement. Xenotransplantation is the transplanting of living cells, tissues, or organs from one species to another.

MGH expressed deep sadness at Slayman’s sudden death and offered condolences to his family.

Slayman’s relatives said his story was an inspiration. “Rick said that one of the reasons he underwent this procedure was to provide hope for the thousands of people who need a transplant to survive,” they said. “Rick accomplished that goal, and his hope and optimism will endure forever.”

They added, “To us, Rick was a kind-hearted man with a quick-witted sense of humor who was fiercely dedicated to his family, friends, and co-workers.”

While Slayman received the first pig kidney to be transplanted into a human, it is not the first pig organ to be used in a transplant procedure. Two other patients have received pig heart transplants, but those procedures were unsuccessful as the recipients died a few weeks later, with one case showing signs of the patient’s immune system rejecting the organ, a common risk in transplants.

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