The first successful human pig kidney transplant was performed in the USA
In the USA alone, more than a hundred thousand people are waiting for organ transplantation right now, an average of 17 people a day die in line, and scientists are looking for other ways out of the situation, besides human donation. A few days ago, a pig kidney was successfully transplanted to a person for the first time. “Successful” means a 54-hour operation on a human patient whose brain is already dead and whose body was kept alive artificially. According to the observation of transplantologists, the kidney connected to the life support devices was functioning normally all this time.
Technically, this process is called xenotransplantation or transplantation of tissues and organs from one biological species to another. If this direction develops, pigs can become donors of many organs suitable for human use. While the kidney was outside the patient’s body, it was doing its job properly – filtering out waste products from the blood and producing urine. Experts are cautiously optimistic in their forecasts that tests of pork kidneys on seriously ill patients who have no other options left may begin within the next two years.
To put the operation into practice, there are still some obstacles to overcome, including bureaucratic ones. Although pigs have long been considered potentially suitable donors for humans, there is one “but”: their cells contain alpha-gal sugar, which provokes their immediate rejection by the human body. In this case, pig cells were genetically modified not to produce this compound.
Ethical considerations also have to be taken into account. The patient’s family has agreed to experimental xenotransplantation, but not everyone is satisfied with the idea of breeding animals for organ extraction. The more suitable pig organs are for monkeys, it is because piglets are already bred for food. They have abundant fertility, a short pregnancy and organs similar to those that we have. Medicine already uses pig skin grafts to treat burns and heart valves in humans, experiments have also been conducted with pig heart transplants to baboons.