Weymouth man who received first-of-its-kind pig kidney transplant has died

The Weymouth man who became the first person to receive a genetically edited pig kidney in March has died, Mass General Hospital says.

The hospital did not share how Richard ‘Rick’ Slayman passed away but said there was no indication his milestone transplant was a factor.

“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. 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,” a statement from Mass General Hospital said.

The “milestone” transplant procedure was performed by a Massachusetts General Hospital surgical team led by Dr. Tatsuo Kawai, Dr. Nahel Elias, and Dr. Leonardo Riella. A genetically-edited pig kidney with 69 genomic edits was successfully transplanted into Slayman after hours of surgery.

Slayman had been living with Type 2 diabetes and hypertension for years and previously received a kidney transplant from a dead human donor in December 2018 after being on dialysis seven years before that.

The transplanted kidney showed signs of failure about five years later and Slayman resumed dialysis in May 2023.

The procedure to transplant the pig kidney was performed under a single FDA Expanded Access Protocol – known as compassionate use – granted to a single patient or group of patients with serious, life-threatening illnesses or conditions to gain access to experimental treatments or trials when no comparable treatment options or therapies exist, officials said.

Slayman was discharged from the hospital on April 3 with a clean bill of health and amidst a joyous crowd.

“The care I received was exceptional and I trust the physicians of the Mass General Brigham health system with my life. I’m excited to resume spending time with my family, friends, and loved ones free from the burden of dialysis that has affected my quality of life for many years,” Slayman said.

The Slayman family provided the following statement to Boston 25 News:

“Our family is deeply saddened about the sudden passing of our beloved Rick but take great comfort knowing he inspired so many. Millions of people worldwide have come to know Rick’s story. We felt – and still feel – comforted by the optimism he provided patients desperately waiting for a transplant. 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. We are extremely grateful to his care team across Massachusetts General Hospital and Mass General Brigham, especially Dr. Williams, Dr. Kawai, and Dr. Riella, who truly did everything they could to help give Rick a second chance. 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 legacy will be one that inspires patients, researchers, and health care professionals everywhere. Our family asks for respectful privacy as we remember the beautiful soul of our beloved Rick.”

—  Slayman family statement

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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