In some European countries, more than 20,000 people every year are put on a never-ending waiting list for an organ transplant. This figure is constantly increasing and illustrates the urgency of the situation. Recently, a possible controversial solution has surfaced: xenografts. This method will allow particular animal organs to be transplanted into humans
In recent years, several important steps have already been taken. An American company solved problems linked to particular viruses in the genomes of some animals by making organ transplants from genetically modified pigs possible in humans. In December last year, a team of German scientists managed to graft pig hearts to baboons, opening the way for human applications.
First step: kidney transplant
For the father of heart transplantation in the United Kingdom, Sir Terence English, xenografts are the future. What’s more, that future is very near.
‘Adapted pig hearts could be transplanted into patients within three years,’ explains the news source The Guardian.
To pull off this incredible achievement however, they need to succeed in their first step: grafting a porcine kidney to humans. This operation could be carried out this year, under the watchful eye of Sir English. Pig organs actually give biologists significant hope because of their anatomic and physiological similarities to humans.
‘If the result of xenotransplantation is satisfactory with porcine kidneys to humans, then it is likely that hearts would be used with good effects in humans within a few years. […] If it works with a kidney, it will work with a heart,’ explains Sir English.