American scientists are making huge advancements in between-species organ transplants (officially known as xenotransplantism).
The researchers have been able to keep a pig heart alive in a baboon for 945 days and conducted the longest ever kidney swap between a pig and baboon.
The experiments used pig organs that were “humanised” with human genes to prevent organ rejection.
The work is being partially funded by Martine Rothblatt, a biotechnology executive whose daughter may one day need a lung transplant.
Rothblatt and her company, United Therapeutics, have spent millions of dollars supplying scientists with pig organs.
“We want to make organs come off the assembly line, a dozen per day,” says Rothblatt. “The goal is to create an unlimited supply of transplantable organs”.
Successful pig to human organ transplants are still a long way off. Animal organs set off a strong immune response when transplanted into the human body.
Back in 1992, a woman given a pig liver died after less than two days. When an Indian doctor gave a patient a pig heart, he was arrested for murder.
Even if all these problems can be overcome, the cost will remain a significant barrier. A single transplant costs around $100,000.
For more revolutionary advancements in science, don’t miss Breakthrough – Tuesdays at 9.30pm from 17 November on National Geographic Channel