How a family’s decision to donate a body for research on pig kidneys could influence transplants

Mary Miller-Duffy was inconsolable and confused. Her brother suffered an abrupt collapse and passed away a few days later. She now had to decide whether or not to give his body for medical research Transplants.

That is how Maurice “Mo” Miller’s body began its trip to a bright spot in the intensive care unit at NYU Langone Health, where it became a part of the effort to one day use organs from animals to help fill the nation’s transplant shortfall.

Miller-Duffy battled with the decision but is proud of her brother’s final deed since “he always wanted to help people,” she said.

On July 14, surgeons replaced Miller’s kidneys with a genetically altered pig’s. Then, carefully counting the days, the physicians and nurses attended to the dead man as they would a patient who was still alive.

Amazingly, the new organ is still functioning like a healthy kidney more than a month later, marking the longest time a pig kidney has ever functioned in a human. The race is on to see if the kidney can last another month, until September.

The Associated Press got a firsthand account of the difficulties of conducting research on the deceased that could advance animal-to-human organ transplants.

It’s unlikely that you’ll receive an organ transplant today. The majority of the more than 100,000 persons on the national waiting list require kidney transplants. Thousands of people perish while waiting. Many thousands more people who might gain are not even included on the list.

According to Dr. Robert Montgomery, head of the transplant institute at NYU Langone, “I had seven cardiac arrests before I even was sick enough” to qualify for a new heart. He does kidney transplants and was fortunate enough to receive a heart transplant in 2018.

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