Pig kidney transplants mark big step for medicine

Pig kidney transplants mark big step for medicine

We are still waiting for the day when pigs can fly, but what about the day when a pig kidney can be transplanted successfully to a human body? Surgeons in New York completed a procedure that did just that in October.

The transplanted organ performed normally for 54 hours, becoming the first recorded case of this procedure that worked and was not immediately rejected by the human body. While the specifics of the surgery have not been reviewed further, this advancement is a big step for medicine.

A nephrologist at Stanford University said that the organ-shortage problem will never be solved with human organs. This is why scientists and researchers have turned to animals to resolve the issue.

Data show that 90% of the 100,000 people on the transplant waiting list in the United States are waiting for a kidney. Animal-to-human organ transplants, called xenotransplantation [zee-no-transplantation], could prove to be a real breakthrough, helping bridge the organ-shortage gap.

Researchers have successfully transplanted pig kidneys into nonhuman primates and seen then hold up for more than a year. In early attempts, pig kidneys would be immediately rejected by the host. But gene-editing improvements helped make the difference.

While the successful transplant marked a revolutionary step, porcine [por-seen] kidneys must still function safely for an extended length of time to earn federal approval.

Of course, the ethical ramifications of using animal body parts for human transplant would still need to be sorted out.

So, while pigs may never be able to fly, they may be able to do something far more helpful — extend humans’ lives.

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