The Science Still Putting Parts of Pigs Into Humans

We’re going to have to start carrying cards in our wallets alongside our “I am not an organ donor” cards that say “do not put pig organs in my body.”

It is simply not reasonable to put pig organs in your body.


The first transplant surgery to combine a mechanical heart pump as well as a gene-edited pig kidney has been completed at NYU Langone Health, the system said Wednesday.

The subject, 54-year-old Lisa Pisano of New Jersey, had heart failure and end-stage kidney disease that required routine dialysis, NYU Langone said in a news release. But she couldn’t have a standard heart or kidney transplant because of other chronic medical conditions that “significantly reduced the likelihood of a good outcome” and because of an overall lack of donor organs in the US.

“When that opportunity first came to me, I was like, ‘I gotta try it,’ ” Pisano said during a news conference Wednesday from her bed in the intensive care unit.

“I’ve tried everything else, and I’ve exhausted all other resources. So when this opportunity came, I said, ‘I’m gonna take advantage of it,’ ” she said, hoping to “spend time with my grandkids and play with them.”

The need for organs far outstrips the number available. Every day, 17 people die in the US waiting for an organ, and kidneys are in shortest supply. According to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, roughly 27,000 kidneys were transplanted in 2023, but nearly 89,000 people were on the waiting list for those organs.

Experts say xenotransplants – transplants of animal organs into people – are crucial to solving the organ shortage. Gene editing makes precise edits to a pig’s DNA to help keep the human body from recognizing the animal’s organs as foreign and rejecting them.

Pisano got the heart pump on April 4 and then, on April 12, received a gene-edited pig kidney along with the pig’s thymus gland. Her case is the first reported organ transplant in a person with a mechanical heart pump, NYU Langone says, and it’s the second known transplant of a gene-edited pig kidney into a living recipient and the first transplanted along with the thymus.

The first living recipient of a gene-edited pig kidney, 62-year-old Rick Slayman, received the organ at Massachusetts General Hospital in March and was able to go home this month. Pig hearts have also been transplanted into two living people who died within weeks of receiving the organs.

No one wants to die. I mean, some people do actually, and I respect them for that. But in general, people don’t want to die. And when you’re in a hospital bed, high on opioids, and someone comes in and says “yeah, you can keep living, but we’re going to have to put parts of a pig inside of you,” most people will probably go along with it.

But is this justice?