Genetically Modified Pig Organ Transplants: Potential, Progress, and Challenges

2023-11-18 17:06:00

Maybe Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov or Ray Bradbury have written about it. Well, the concrete thing is that, today, these topics are not being studied, but there are already practical applications of it.

Use of pig hearts

So much so, that it has just been reported that Lawrence Faucette58 years old who had received a pig heart transplant genetically modified, died six weeks after the operation in the University of Maryland, USA. That is to say, this is someone who spent a month and a half living with a heart that was not only foreign to him, but had been extracted from an animal: a pig.

Why a pig and not another animal? It happens that the morphology of the pig’s heart is very similar to that of the human. For this reason, and taking into account the relative ease of obtaining specimens, pig hearts have been used for several years – for example – in the Anatomy Unit of the National University of Colombia as a pedagogical element with very good results.

Faucette, was a retired Marine, who underwent the transplant due to his terminal heart disease that made him ineligible for a human heart transplant. Although he initially showed signs of progress, the organ began to exhibit symptoms of rejection in recent days leading to his death.

Given that this is the second case in which the patient died under similar conditions, this may seem somewhat discouraging to continue with such practices. But the History of Medicine shows that this is not the case.

How long was the person you Christian Barnard (1922/2001) performed the first heart transplant? Just 18 days! Currently there are transplant recipients who survive for years and decades. Beginnings always have frustrating edges. You don’t have to let yourself be defeated by it. And scientists know this perfectly.


Current statistics show that survival of heart transplant recipients up to 10 years exceeds 60%. If they cannot be transplanted, 5% survive a year. The longest current survivals with the same transplanted organ are: kidney, 33 years; liver, 26 years; bone marrow, 22 years old; heart, 21 years old; pancreas 17 years and lung 11 years.

Los xenotrasplantes (that is what those that come from an animal and are implanted in a human body are called), which use genetically modified pig organs, offer a possible solution to the shortage of organs for human transplants. The first recipient of a pig heart, David Bennett, He died two months after surgery. These transplants continue to be the subject of study and development.

In January 2022, the University of Maryland performed the world’s first transplant of a genetically modified pig heart into a human being. In that case, the patient was Bennett, a 57-year-old American who had a terminal illness, dying two months after the surgical procedure.

It is clear that xenografts represent a real challenge to the recipient’s immune system since it tends to attack the foreign organ. To reduce this risk, the pigs’ organs were genetically modified, which also represents a notable advance.

The researchers explain that these animals are the most suitable organ donors due to their size, rapid growth and large litters of offspring.

Genetic compatibility

Keep in mind that lSequencing the genome of this mammal allows us to discover that they share more than 90% genetic similarity with humans.. To get the pig heart used in these transplants, scientists removed three pig genes that trigger human immune system attacks by adding six human genes that help the body accept the organ.

Recently, transplants have also been performed kidney from genetically modified pigs in brain dead patients. Here it is not intended to replace organs from human donors, but is expected to be useful in providing extra survival time to people while they remain on the waiting list.

The Transplant Institute at New York University Langone Hospital announced in September of this year that a pig kidney transplanted into a brain-dead patient had “functioned for a record 61 days.”

Antonio Las Heras is a doctor in Social Psychology, a master’s degree in Psychoanalysis, a philosopher and historian. “Dare to live fully” is his new book

#amazing #advance #Medicine #Antonio #Las #Heras

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