This exciting activity gives hope to people who depend on donating organs. But there are also ethical questions.
A New York transplant team transplanted a pig kidney into a man over two days. This organ is said to be attached to the bloodstream outside the body for 54 hours on the leg of the person who suffered the stroke. It started working there “immediately” and produced the metabolic product creatinine. The newspaper “USA Today” and the “New York Times” quoted the Langon Clinic team in New York.
Swine genetically modified to reduce the chance of kidney rejection. For many who rely on donated organs, high-end alternatives offer hope. Scientists have been trying for some time to breed pigs in organs that can be used by humans – in addition to the kidneys, hearts and lungs.
For Nicholas Mல்லller, head of the Center for Transplantation at the University Hospital of Zurich, this process is an “essential step” in the field of xenotransplantation, the transfer of cells or organs from one species to another. “One of the barriers here is the question of whether such a pig kidney can take over the normal function of the human kidney.” This has now been proven – at least 54 hours.
For M முller, however, there are other obstacles – especially when rejecting the animal organ. “These kidneys are not immediately discarded, which is a good sign. But you never know what will happen when the kidneys stay in the body for a long time. Finally, there are risks of spreading the swine virus.” But the risk is very small. And these pigs are bred without germs. ”
Can more elements be transplanted?
Is it possible for one person to transplant other pig organs? “There is hope that the heart or liver can also be used in the future. But even there you must first provide evidence that the organs can take on this function effectively,” says Mller.
Meanwhile, it is obvious that scientists are using pigs for xenotransplantation. “They can be easily reproduced and genetically modified relatively easily. And their organs are very similar to human organs.”
Long waiting lists in Switzerland
In Switzerland, there are currently 1,500 people waiting for a new element. Also in Switzerland the waiting list is likely to be longer because fewer and fewer relatives agree to remove an organ from their deceased family members. Politicians are currently working to resolve conflicts. This means that if a deceased person does not explicitly reject organ donation before his or her death, his or her consent is generally considered. This path will take some time to decide politically.
For pigs to one day be used as a kind of “reservoir” for human organs, they must be genetically modified and raised in specialized breeding facilities – in a sterile environment. To some, this may seem like a confusing kind of science fiction. It is clear to Mல்லller that the genotransplantation protocol also raises questions. “It is necessary to hold this important discussion socially to introduce something like this in practice. But we are still a long way from that.”
The history of the development of genocrafts, meanwhile, has been marked by lengths and setbacks. The case of Baby Fave, who won a baboon heart in California in 1984, is particularly remarkable. It died three weeks after surgery.