Axios Boston

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It's Wednesday. Take a deep breath, and remember the sun's back this weekend.

  • 🎢 Sounds like: "Just for fun" by BeyoncΓ© and Willie Jones.

Today's weather: Cloudy and scattered showers with temps in the low 50s.

Today's newsletter is 933 words β€” a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: Pig kidney transplant raises hope for clinical trials

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

The success of the world's first pig kidney transplant into a Massachusetts man could stoke large-scale clinical trials on implanting animal tissues in humans to help ease the organ shortage crisis.

Why it matters: Demand for donated organs is vast as transplants have rebounded post-pandemic and the nation's troubled human donor organ system goes through a major overhaul, Axios' Adriel Bettelheim reports.

  • More than 103,000 people are on the national transplant waiting list and 17 die each day waiting for an organ transplant.

Catch up fast: A 62-year-old Bay Stater with end-stage kidney disease was discharged from Massachusetts General Hospital last Wednesday after becoming the first recipient of a genetically edited pig kidney.

  • He was the third xenotransplant patient, following two who received pig hearts when no other transplant options were available but who each died soon after.

Zoom in: The Cambridge-based biotech firm that produced the pig with the donor kidney, eGenesis, is in talks with the Food and Drug Administration about clinical trials for pig kidney and pediatric heart transplants, along with using pig livers connected to recipients from outside the body, per Nature.

  • Experimental transplants are currently reserved for patients with life-threatening illnesses when no comparable treatment exists under the FDA's compassionate use protocols.

Flashback: The patient, Richard Slayman, received a transplanted human kidney in 2018 that began failing last year.

  • He resumed dialysis but experienced complications requiring hospital visits every two weeks, Mass General said.

The latest case shows, at least in the short term, the animal organs are safe and function as expected, Luhan Yang, one of the founders of eGenesis, told Nature.

  • Muhammad Mohiuddin, the University of Maryland surgeon who led the first pig-heart transplant in 2022, told Nature clinical trials could produce the necessary rigorous data about the safety and efficacy of xenotransplantation.

Yes, but: There is a risk of infection from pig pathogens β€” something clinicians are monitoring Slayman for.

Go deeper: "Potential breakthrough" for transplant access

2. πŸ’° Feds could help with health care pilot

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Massachusetts' request for some $2 billion in federal Medicaid funding could help sustain the state's new health care subsidies for middle-income earners.

The big picture: Declining revenues, increased migrant shelter costs and rate hikes are straining state budgets.

  • The current fiscal picture could prompt lawmakers to rethink progressive subsidy programs like the ConnectorCare pilot.

Catch up fast: Massachusetts' two-year pilot, which took effect Jan. 1, expands subsidized health care to residents who earn up to 500% of the federal poverty line, up from 300%.

  • ConnectorCare helps locals who make too much or otherwise don't qualify for Medicare and Medicaid and can't get employer-based insurance.
  • Lawmakers expected about 50,000 to enroll under the pilot.

Massachusetts asked the feds in its request amending its current Medicaid waiver to expand its ConnectorCare coverage to include those middle-income earners.

  • The additional funding would "further mitigate cost 'cliffs' among the commonwealth's different insurance programs."
  • Massachusetts' request also proposes using Medicaid funding to cover housing for homeless populations, including migrant families in the emergency shelter system.

State of play: The state had 46,000 people in the ConnectorCare pilot as of February, the latest month of data available.

  • The pilot program is mainly funded through tax credits and a state trust fund, but Massachusetts could get more funding from the feds in under a month if its request is approved.

Zoom out: Massachusetts' health marketplace is seeing an increase in enrollment as the state redetermines' MassHealth members' eligibility for coverage.

  • The marketplace grew to 287,000 individual members in February, with 94,000 people joining after losing MassHealth coverage in January, per a recent report by the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation.

Reality check: It's still too early to tell the pilot's long-term impact on the state's insured population, MassHealth enrollment and overall health insurance system, MTF's report notes.

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3. πŸ”™ Back That Mass Up: South Station Tower fire

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Suffolk Construction, the company leading the South Station Tower project, shut down the job site to conduct a safety audit after a fire on the ninth floor. (Globe)

  • The fire was caused by burning "construction material," per the Boston Fire Department.
  • The project also shut down last month after a large steel beam fell from an upper floor, prompting an OSHA investigation.

πŸ— Zoning officials approved plans for 15 affordable housing condos on Blue Hill Avenue, replacing currently vacant lots. (UHub)

πŸ’° OneUnited Bank, the nation's largest Black-owned bank, plans to relocate its headquarters from downtown Boston to Roxbury next year. (BBJ)

  • CEO Kevin Cohee says Roxbury is the entry to the "new Black Wall Street."

4. Pic du jour: Red Sox joy

Brianna and Trevor Wakefield hoist the 2004 World Series trophy. Photo: Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

Let's forget about that excruciating 7-1 loss to the Baltimore Orioles for a moment.

The true highlight of yesterday's Opening Day was the tribute to the 2004 Red Sox team that reversed the curse and won the World Series.

Zoom in: Some of the greats were at Fenway Park β€” Johnny Damon, David Ortiz and, perhaps in spirit, Tim Wakefield.

  • The former pitcher died of brain cancer in October at age 57. His wife, Stacy, died months later of cancer.

The Wakefields' children, Brianna and Trevor, took his place on the field. Brianna threw the ceremonial first pitch.

  • Damon helped place the trophy in Brianna's hands, and she lifted it up alongside her brother.

What they're saying: "Those kids are going through a lot and they know that they have a lot of family, the team that we had in 2004," Damon said, per the AP.

  • "They can always count on us."

5. Where's Townie? The Rogerson House!

Photo: Mike Deehan/Axios

Earlier this week, we asked where our mascot Townie had flapped off to.

  • She was at the Rogerson House assisted living facility in Jamaica Plain.
  • For the second week in a row, no one got it right. Do better!

Deehan is glad it's spring and the sun is finally out during the first dog walk of the morning.

Steph isn't entirely surprised there's a Massachusetts connection to this chef-turned-ghosting husband drama.

This newsletter was edited by Jeff Weiner and copy edited by James Farrell.