First-Ever Combined Heart Pump and Pig Kidney Transplant Gives New Hope to Patient with Terminal Illness

Combined mechanical heart pump and gene-edited pig kidney transplant surgery

Robert Montgomery, MD, DPhil, (left) the H. Leon Pachter, MD, Professor and chair of the Department of Surgery and director of the NYU Langone Transplant Institute, and Jeffrey Stern, MD, assistant professor in the Department of Surgery at NYU Grossman School of Medicine, evaluate the surgical site before transplanting the gene-edited pig kidney with thymus into Lisa Pisano on April 12, 2024. Photo by Joe Carrotta for NYU Langone Health.

Surgeons at NYU Langone Health performed the first-ever combined mechanical heart pump and gene-edited pig kidney transplant surgery in a 54-year-old woman with heart and kidney failure—a confluence of advances that showcase the possibility and hope of modern medicine.

Doctors performed this feat in two stages: first surgically implanting the heart pump days before embarking on the landmark transplant, which included a gene-edited pig kidney and the pig’s thymus gland to aid against rejection. Before the procedure, patient Lisa Pisano, a New Jersey native, faced heart failure and end-stage kidney disease that required routine dialysis. She was not a candidate for heart and kidney transplants because several chronic medical conditions significantly reduced the likelihood of a good outcome and there aren’t enough organs for those in need.

Despite these adversities, Pisano has thrived from the love of her grandchildren and eagerly wants to watch them grow up.

“All I want is the opportunity to have a better life,” she said. “After I was ruled out for a human transplant, I learned I didn’t have a lot of time left. My doctors thought there may be a chance I could be approved to receive a gene-edited pig kidney, so I discussed it with my family and my husband. He has been by my side throughout this ordeal and wants me to be better.”

To date, there have been no documented instances of anyone with a mechanical heart pump receiving an organ transplant of any kind. It is only the second known transplant of a gene-edited pig kidney into a living person, and the first with the thymus combined.

“It is incredible to consider the scientific achievements that have led to our ability to save Lisa’s life, and what we are endeavoring to do as a society for everyone in need of a life-saving organ,” said Robert Montgomery, MD, DPhil, who led the transplant surgery and who is the H. Leon Pachter, MD, Professor of Surgery; chair of the Department of Surgery; and director of the NYU Langone Transplant Institute. “This could not have been done without the dedication and skill of the many talented physicians, researchers, nurses, health administrators, and perioperative care teams at NYU Langone Health, and the numerous pioneers who came before us.”

Nearly 104,000 people are on the waiting list for a transplant, with 89,360 of those waiting for a kidney. Nearly 808,000 people in the United States have end-stage kidney disease but only about 27,000 were able to receive a transplant last year.

Multimedia Materials Available

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