Transplant Advances: New Life For Pig-To-Human Transplants

I know “science-y” stuff like this Nature medicine news feature is a hard grasp for some people.  But allow me to try & break down why articles like these are important from a practical standpoint.

I know for some this poses issues because of animal testing/treatment, but the stone hard truth is we need more ways to combat the organ donation shortage nationwide & globally.  Even expanding the pool or changing the guidelines of what organs can procured (based on certain diagnosis, etc.) or changing to mandatory opt-out versus default donor opt-in, is not going to solve the problem entirely.

While there are other advances like bio-printing, stem-cell regeneration, potential cloning of organs  these are still far off from prime-time at this point.  This science still is too, but it seems like it’s accelerating a little more quickly & might possibly be first.  All 3 of these eventual advances may provide alternatives to people in the future with no good options.

This particular form of science is a slower process because it is very complex.  As you’ll see by this article published in 2000, there was hope that this option of cross-species transplantation would come to pass eventually, but it has yet to make the full leap to humans with success.

Although, valiant efforts were made to get there in the past.  The most well-known to the general public was “Baby Fae” in 1984.  (There were 3 other previous attempts.) If you’re wondering, “Where have I heard this before? I know I have!” it’s most likely that case.

This process (taking organs from one species & transplanting them into another) is called Xenotransplantation. If you click the link, you’ll see a nice detailed history of how this science has progressed over the years.

This article is also important outside “transplant world”  because there has been quite a big buzz in the medical community as a whole on genomic medicine & its full potential in recent years.  Outside transplantation, editing or genetically modifying/manipulating DNA in pigs to make them transplantable into another animal or potentially, a human, is “hot” science because it also provides research insights on the DNA & editing process itself at a basic level.  There are a lot of lessons to be learned.

For more information on xenotransplantation. I’ve pulled a few more links that may break this down into a bit more relatable pieces & outlines some ethical questions surrounding it (both pro & con) :

World Health Organization (WHO)

Genetic Literacy Project

Frontline (PBS) & Organ Farm (PBS/FrontLine)

The Nathaniel Centre (NZ)

Diabetes Health

It’s not without controversy, that’s for sure. These are but a sampling of the varying views on xenotransplantation.

While I’m not sure how I feel about this yet from an ethical standpoint, I do believe it has to be worthy of study due to the organ shortage issue until something else comes along.  It’s hard to say what stance one would take unless they were in the predicament where this was their only viable option.  So at this time, I reserve commentary & judgement. I just think this merits further exploration & study, in spite of any ethical challenges it poses.

NaBloPoMo_2015

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3 thoughts on “Transplant Advances: New Life For Pig-To-Human Transplants

  1. The closest I’ve gotten to using animal parts is taking Armour – which is ground up pig thyroids. However, getting the right dose was always a nightmare because there was always a shortage. My body sure liked it, though.

    Liked by 1 person

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