Can pigs end the list for human organ transplants?

Eden Prairie-based Miromatrix will attempt the first-ever bioengineered organ transplant into a human.

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — More than 2 million people need dialysis or a kidney transplant to survive, according to the National Kidney Foundation.

But what if they didn’t? What if nobody had to wait for an organ to survive?

Miromatrix, an Eden Prairie-based biomedical company, is trying to change the course of human medical history using a process that seems straight out of a sci-fi movie.

“A bioengineered organ has never been transplanted into a human,” said Jeff Ross, Miromatrix CEO. “This will be a first.”

The company, founded in 2009, uses patented technology invented at the University of Minnesota to transform pig livers and kidneys into, hopefully, fully transplantable human ones.

Miromatrix starts with pig organs, because — well — pigs don’t smoke or drink. Their kidneys and livers give the company a pristine starting point, according to Ross. They wash away all pig cells in the organ leaving behind a white, protein-based structure of the organ. They then reintroduce human cells from unused or defective donor organs to create a new human organ.

It is essentially human-cell recycling.

“Once this is available someday, patients won’t be wondering, ‘Where’s that organ going to come from? Am I going to be able to essentially win the lottery?’ You start to enter into a situation where you know the solution is out there, and you have access to it,” said Ross.

The organs are grown from 14 to 28 days until they become functional, said Ross. At some point in the future, the company hopes to be able to introduce stem cells from a patient into their own newly grown organ to better customize it.

“There are about 110,000 patients today on the organ transplant waiting list (U.S.) — 70,000 of those will not get an organ this year. So, our mission is, how do we find a solution?” said Ross.

Miromatrix has shown success in a large animal study. Ross said the company will submit their application to the FDA for human trials by the end of 2022.

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