Organs for transplant are always in high demand in this country. Due to the lack of organs in general, and the complications involved with getting organs that are compatible for a recipient, it is said that “twenty Americans die each day waiting for organs” (Clynes). In an article by Tom Clynes, he discusses that a solution to this problem is currently being explored, which is called xenotransplantation. Xenotransplantation is the process of transplantation of organs or tissues between species. While this sounds crazy, it has been being explored for a long time, and after many years, researchers are now at the point where this concept may become a reality. This hasn’t worked in the past because there are many large differences in animals and humans that do not allow a human to live with a different species blood. (Clynes)
Researchers have put much of their faith for the success of xenotransplantation into common pigs. Common pigs, although they have many incompatible genes with humans, they have organs that are very similar to the size and structure of humans. Researchers found very many of the genes and enzymes that are incompatible with humans, such as the alpha-gel enzyme, and many porcine endogenous retroviruses. To create genetically engineered pigs, experimenters had to perform many procedures, such as snipping and removing sixty-two copies of the retroviruses in pig-kidney cells. After doing this, along with other procedures to get rid of incompatible genes, the perfected DNA had to be placed into a live pig’s egg. This eventually led to the birth of the first pig with no endogenous viruses. Along with taking out the viruses from pig’s DNA, the researchers also had to add in many human genes to make the organs more like humans'. While the idea of this working seems very far away, it is in close reach. As mentioned in the article, “the first pig-to-human skin graft using live cells is set to take place this month in Boston” and there is a trial being prepared where researchers will use the genetically modified kidneys of pigs “in dialysis patients who are unlikely to be considered for human-donor organs” (Clynes). Pigs have been used for smaller solutions in humans, such as pancreas glands for insulin, intestinal tissue for heparin, corneas to fix humans eyes, etc., but if these experiments are successful in replacing a human’s major organ with a pig’s, this could be a major breakthrough for humanity and could save many lives in the future. (Clynes)
Clynes, Tom. “20 Americans Die Each Day Waiting for Organs. Can Pigs Save Them?” The New York Times Magazine, The New York Times Company, 14 Nov. 2018, www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/11/14/magazine/tech-design-xenotransplantation.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fhealth&action=click&contentCollection=health®ion=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=7&pgtype=sectionfront.