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In a world's first, surgeons at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston have transplanted a kidney from a gene-hacked pig into a living 62-year-old man.

Researchers are hoping the procedure could reduce our reliance on both hard-to-come-by human donor kidneys, and the expensive dialysis machines that treat kidney disease and failure.

Fortunately, the surgeons' efforts appear to have paid off — at least for now. The pig kidney started producing urine not long after the surgery last weekend, the New York Times reports. The patient's condition also continues to improve, according to the report.

In fact, he's already walking the halls and could soon be discharged.

It's an especially important milestone, considering the patient, Richard "Rick" Slayman, is Black. Studies have shown that African-American patients have historically suffered from the highest rates of end-stage kidney disease.

Xenotransplanted kidneys "could solve an intractable problem in the field — the inadequate access of minority patients to kidney transplants," said Mass General associate chief of nephrology Winfred Williams in a statement.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 800,000 people in the US are suffering from end-stage kidney disease. More than half of them are racial or ethnic minorities.

Yet only a tiny fraction of these patients end up receiving a kidney transplant, the best option for people suffering from end-stage kidney disease.

While scientists are hopeful that donor organs from pigs could be a real solution to global shortages, they still have their work cut out.

For one, xenotransplanted organs still run the risk of being rejected by the recipient's immune system.

This particular pig kidney was created by biotech company eGenesis, which has also bred pigs to produce pig livers meant for transplantation into a human recipient.

The company used CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing to reduce the chances of the patient's body rejecting the new kidney and improve compatibility.

While it's the first time a pig kidney was transplanted into a living human, there have already been several trials involving brain-dead patients.

As the NYT reports, two experiments involving the xenotransplantation of pig hearts into patients with heart disease ended in the patients dying shortly afterward.

Slayman, who has been a patient at Mass General for 11 years and had a previously transplanted kidney show signs of failure last year, is hopeful despite the risks.

"I saw it not only as a way to help me, but a way to provide hope for thousands of people who need a transplant to survive," he said in a statement.

More on xenotransplantation: Startup Clones Three Piglets Gene-Hacked to Have Organs Transplanted Into Humans

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