Medical researchers have been eyeing pig parts as replacements for failing human organs for decades. Now they’ve made one work.
Surgeons from New York University attached a pig’s kidney to blood vessels of a human patient who had been declared brain-dead. Over a two-day experiment, the kidney—which remained outside the person’s body—worked as well as the human version, filtering waste and making urine. Neither the body nor the kidney showed signs of organ rejection.
The pig that grew the kidney had been genetically engineered to minimize the risk that a human’s immune system would attack and reject the new organ.
Hearts from genetically engineered pigs have been transplanted into primates, also without being rejected. Scientists are now tweaking pigs’ genomes to make their hearts welcome in the human body as well.
Pigs’ genetic structures also have been manipulated to make a human protein that minimizes blood clotting, another key to ensuring that an inter-species transplant is well-received.
Aside from pigs, biochemists have formulated new drugs that should smooth human acceptance of body parts from another species.
Some researchers believe the first pig-to-human heart transplant could occur within the next few months.
TRENDPOST: More than 100,000 people in the U.S. are currently waiting for a kidney transplant and 13 of them die every day, according to the National Kidney Foundation. More than 106,700 Americans need new hearts, with 17 succumbing daily, the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration says.
Globally, figures are estimated to be several multiples of those numbers.
Pigs are smarter than dogs and some have shown intelligence that outshines that of three-year-old humans, according to the Humane Society of the United States.
Consequently, a plan to breed legions of genetically modified pigs to be killed so their organs can be harvested for human replacement parts will spark an ethical debate. However, human needs will win out and transplants from pigs to humans will no longer be unusual by 2030.