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What does the first successful test of a pig-to-human kidney transplant mean?

Surgeons in New York City successfully attached a pig kidney to a human patient and watched the pinkish organ function normally for 54 hours. While such procedures have been done in nonhuman primates, this is the first time that a pig kidney has been transplanted to a human body and not been immediately rejected.

The procedure, announced in a news conference October 21, marks progress toward the goal of drastically expanding the supply of life-saving organs. Millions of people around the world are waiting for donated organs, many of which never come.

While the details of the procedure have not yet been peer reviewed nor published in a journal, “it’s a significant step,” says Megan Sykes, an immunologist at Columbia University who wasn’t involved in the research. But there are many more steps to be taken before patients waiting for a kidney can easily get one from a pig, she says.

Here are answers to some basic questions about the milestone.

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