The world’s first patient with a transplanted pig kidney died almost two months after the operation. However, the treating clinic sees no connection with the transplant and continues to give hope to other patients.

“Our family is deeply saddened by the sudden passing of our beloved Rick, but we find comfort in the knowledge that he inspired so many,” the family said over the weekend. The treating clinic in Boston said they have no evidence that patient Rick Slayman died as a result of his recent transplant. He will “stand as a beacon of hope for countless transplant patients around the world,” Massachusetts General Hospital continued.

According to the hospital, the man, who suffers from life-threatening kidney disease, had the genetically modified organ implanted on March 16 at the age of 62. He left the clinic at the beginning of April. “I have been longing for this moment for many years, to be able to leave the hospital with one of the best health reports I have had in a long time,” he said at the time, according to the doctors.

The so-called xenotransplantation – the transfer of animal organs to humans – has been researched since the 1980s. Pigs are considered particularly suitable as donors because their metabolism is similar to that of humans. In order to use such organs, the genetic makeup of the donor animals must, among other things, be changed. Otherwise, transmission to humans would result in an immediate rejection reaction. The 62-year-old also showed signs of rejection on the eighth day after the operation, wrote the New York Times, citing one of the doctors. The immune reaction was curbed with medication.

“For us, Rick was a kind-hearted man with a quick-witted sense of humor who was deeply committed to his family, his friends and his colleagues,” the family said after the man’s death. The doctors’ efforts in the xenotransplantation gave the family seven more weeks with Rick. “The memories of this time will remain in our minds and hearts.”

Most recently, two seriously ill patients at the University Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, had pig hearts implanted as replacement organs in recent years. Both died weeks after the operation. In addition, a pig kidney was transplanted into a brain-dead man at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) in order to fundamentally test the procedure.