US patient, 62, who had first ever pig kidney transplant dies two months after operation

Rick Slayman, who died two months after his kidney operation (Massachusetts General Hospital)
Rick Slayman, who died two months after his kidney operation (Massachusetts General Hospital)

An American man who was the first in the world to undergo a pig kidney transplant has died less than two months after the procedure, despite having been told it would last him two years.

Richard Slayman, from Weymouth, Massachusetts, was given the genetically modified pig kidney to save him from death in a four hour procedure back in March.

His family announced the death on Saturday and thanked medics for their “enormous efforts”.

“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.

“We are extremely grateful to his care team across Massachusetts General Hospital.

“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.”

Massachusetts general hospital also released a statement to say medics were “deeply saddened” to hear of the 62-year-old’s demise.

Mr Slayman was the first living person to have the procedure. Two men received heart transplants from pigs, although both died within months.

Mr Slayman had a kidney transplant at the hospital in 2018, but he had to go back on dialysis last year when it showed signs of failure. When dialysis complications arose requiring frequent procedures, his doctors suggested a pig kidney transplant.

The family added that Mr Slayman underwent the surgery in part to provide hope for the thousands of people who need a transplant to survive.

"Rick accomplished that goal and his hope and optimism will endure forever," the statement added.

Xenotransplantation refers to healing human patients with cells, tissues or organs from animals.

Such efforts long failed because the human immune system immediately destroyed foreign animal tissue, but recent attempts have involved pigs that have been modified so their organs are more human-like.