Animal Organs To Human Recipients?

Video highlights from Breakthrough

In a huge breakthrough, research suggests it may be possible

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

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