Her doctors remembered Lisa Pisano as brave and altruistic, saying her contributions to medicine
Her doctors remembered Lisa Pisano as brave and altruistic, saying her contributions to medicine "cannot be overstated." Shelby Lum/AP/FILE

Lisa Pisano, the first person to receive a mechanical heart pump as well as a gene-edited pig kidney, died Sunday, according to NYU Langone Health, where she had the surgery.

Pisano received the transplant on April 12, but the organ failed due to limited blood flow and was removed May 29.

Her case was the first reported organ transplant in a person with a mechanical heart pump, NYU Langone said, the second known transplant of a gene-edited pig kidney into a living recipient and the first transplanted along with the animal’s thymus gland.

Pisano was brave and altruistic, Dr. Robert Montgomery, director of the NYU Langone Transplant Institute, said in a statement Tuesday.

“At least somebody is going to benefit from it,” she said.

Montgomery said Tuesday that “Lisa’s contributions to medicine, surgery, and xenotransplantation cannot be overstated. … Lisa helped bring us closer to realizing a future where someone does not have to die for another person to live.”

Every eight minutes, another person is added to the transplant waiting list, and 17 people from this list die each day waiting for an organ, according to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network. Xenotransplantation, which involves using organs from other species, is a potential solution to the shortage of available donor organs, experts say.

Doctors in the US perform xenotransplants in rare cases, with permission from the US Food and Drug Administration. For Pisano, the permission came through the agency’s expanded-access or “compassionate use” policy, which allows terminally ill patients who have no other treatment options to access experimental medical products.

Due to Pisano’s heart failure and end-stage kidney disease that required routine dialysis, she couldn’t have a standard transplant, NYU Langone said in a news release.

Before the xenotransplant, Pisano said, she had “tried everything else” and, with the surgery, was hoping to spend time with her grandkids and play with them.

The pig kidney she received was genetically altered to evade human antibodies, which typically detect and attack foreign organs. The pig’s thymus gland, which plays a role in immunity, was placed beneath the pig kidney’s cover to further help Pisano’s body accept the organ.

However, the kidney was removed in May after it was determined that it was “no longer contributing enough to justify continuing the immunosuppression regimen,” Montgomery said at the time.

Pisano’s “bravery gave hope to thousands of people living with end-stage kidney or heart failure who could soon benefit from an alternative supply of organs,” he said in Tuesday’s statement.

“Her legacy as a pioneer will live on and she will forever be remembered for her courage and good nature.”