First Person to Receive Pig Kidney Transplant Has Died

In March, we announced the exciting news that Rick Slayman had received a genetically modified kidney from a pig. Mr. Slayman had end-stage kidney disease, blood sugar concerns and high blood pressure. He had received a kidney from a human donor in the past, but it failed after five years, and he had been on dialysis since 2023.

The surgery was greeted as a success. Mr. Slayman survived the surgery and appeared to do well with the organ. The kidney functioned like a human one, and he no longer required dialysis.   

However, sadly, Mr. Slayman has died at the age of 62. There is no indication that he died because of the transplant. He was ill before the surgery.

The surgery was successful and is a milestone for xenotransplantation — transplanting organs from one species to another. There is a shortage of human organs, and genetically modified animal organs could ease the strain on the organ supply chain. Mr. Slayman died of other problems, not because of the kidney. His death, while terribly sad, won’t be a setback for pig organ transplants.

Mr. Slayman’s family thanked his doctors in a statement, saying, “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… 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. Rick accomplished that goal, and his hope and optimism will endure forever.”

His dream is already coming true. Last month, a 54-year-old woman followed in Mr. Slayman’s footsteps. She became the second person to receive a genetically modified pig kidney.  

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,” Massachusetts General said in a statement. “We offer our heartfelt condolences to Mr. Slayman’s family and loved ones as they remember an extraordinary person whose generosity and kindness touched all who knew him.”

His family said, “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.”

To the rest of the world, he will go down in history as the man who agreed to undergo one of the most historically important surgeries of all time.  

Banner image: Rick Slayman
Photo credit: Michelle Rose/Massachusetts General Hospital

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