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What is Xenotransplantation?


In a medical first, doctors transplanted a pig heart into a patient in a last-ditch effort to save his life in the US.

  • Xenotransplantation involves the transplantation of nonhuman tissues or organs into human recipients.
  • This is the first successful transplant of a pig’s heart into a human being. However, it’s too soon to know if the operation really will work.
  • This time, a heart from a pig that had undergone gene-editing has been used to remove a sugar in its cells that’s responsible for that hyper-fast organ rejection.
  • Genome editing (also called gene editing) is a group of technologies that give scientists the ability to change an organism’s Deoxy-Ribonucleic Acid (DNA).
  • Prior attempts at such transplants — or xenotransplantation have failed. One of the biggest obstacles to transplantation is organ rejection.
  • This has re-sparked a debate over the use of pigs for human transplants, which many animal rights groups oppose.
  • This development could bring us one step closer to solving the global organ shortage.
  • In India, patients need 25,000-30,000 liver transplants annually. But only about 1,500 end up receiving them.
  • Pigs are increasingly becoming popular candidates for organ transplantation.
  • Pigs offer advantages over primates for organ procurements, because they are easier to raise and achieve adult human size in six months.
  • Pig heart valves are routinely transplanted into humans, and some patients with diabetes have received porcine pancreas cells.