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Man who received world’s first pig kidney transplant dies two months after surgery

Rick Slayman sits with doctors from Massachusetts General Hospital and his partner.
Rick Slayman sits with doctors from Massachusetts General Hospital and his partner. Copyright Massachusetts General Hospital/Brandon Chase (Partners HealthCare)
Copyright Massachusetts General Hospital/Brandon Chase (Partners HealthCare)
By Lauren Chadwick
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The hospital said that there was “no indication” that the man’s death was the result of the transplant.

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A man who was the first recipient of a pig kidney transplant has died roughly two months after the transplant.

Richard “Rick” Slayman, 62, received a transplant of a genetically modified pig’s kidney during a four-hour-long surgery on March 16.

The transplant team at the hospital said in a statement that they were “deeply saddened” by his passing.

“We have no indication that it was the result of his recent transplant,” the team at Massachusetts General Hospital added.

The doctors said Slayman would be seen as a “beacon of hope” for transplant patients and that they were “deeply grateful for his trust and willingness to advance the field of xenotransplantation”.

Xenotransplantation, which involves transplanting animal organs into humans, has been seen as a potential solution for the lack of available organs for transplant.

In the eight EU countries that are members of the Eurotransplant organisation, for instance, there were roughly 6,800 organs allocated for patients in 2023, yet by the end of the year, there were nearly 13,500 people actively waiting for a transplant.

Two men who received successful pig heart transplants in the US both died after receiving the transplant. Both had been ineligible for human heart transplants.

“Millions of people worldwide have come to know Rick's story. We felt – and still feel – comforted by the optimism he provided patients desperately waiting for a transplant,” Slayman’s family said in a statement on Saturday.

Slayman was living with end-stage kidney disease. He had a kidney transplant from a human donor in 2018.

Five years after his kidney transplant, he had to resume dialysis - which helps to clear waste from patients' bloodstream.

Complications, however, required frequent trips to the hospital which impacted his quality of life.

“After his transplant, 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,” his family added in a statement published by Massachusetts General Hospital.

“Rick accomplished that goal and his hope and optimism will endure forever. His legacy will be one that inspires patients, researchers, and health care professionals everywhere. Our family asks for respectful privacy as we remember the beautiful soul of our beloved Rick”.

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