Image by Massachusetts General Hospital

Roughly two months after becoming the first human to receive a gene-hacked pig kidney transplant, Richard "Rick" Slayman has passed away.

"Our family is deeply saddened about the sudden passing of our beloved Rick but take great comfort knowing he inspired so many," reads a statement issued by Massachusetts General Hospital, where the procedure was conducted.

While we still don't know the exact cause of death, the hospital noted that it had "no indication" that Slayman's passing "was the result of his recent transplant."

Slayman suffered from end-stage kidney disease. A human donor kidney he received in 2018 started to fail last year, leading to him developing congestive heart failure.

The new pig kidney he received in March was created by biotech company eGenesis, which has also bred pigs to produce livers meant for transplantation into a human recipient.

Surgeons were initially optimistic, estimating that the new unusual organ would be able to function for upwards of two years, based on previous experiments involving monkeys.

Despite Slayman's unfortunate passing, the procedure is still an important step forward for xenotransplantation, the nascent field of harvesting donor organs, tissues, and cells, from one species for transplantation in another.

The need for alternatives is as dire as it has ever been. More than 100,000 Americans are currently waiting to receive a human donor transplant and only 25,000 kidneys are transplanted each year. About 12 people die while waiting for a transplant each day in the US.

"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," the hospital's statement reads. "Rick accomplished that goal and his hope and optimism will endure forever."

Since Slayman's procedure, another 54-year-old woman from New Jersey became the second human to receive such a pig kidney. Weeks later, she is still alive.

More on the procedure: Patient Leaves Hospital as Transplanted Gene-Hacked Pig Organ Seems to Be Functioning Well

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