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

Discuss this article


Never miss a Nat Geo moment

Your email address
We use our own and third-party cookies to improve our services, personalise your advertising and remember your preferences. If you continue browsing, or click on the accept button on this banner, we understand that you accept the use of cookies on our website. For more information visit our Cookies Policy AcceptClose cookie policy overlay