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What is Xenotransplantation?


Recently, the first recipient of a modified pig kidney transplant passed away after hisgroundbreaking  xenotransplantation surgery. His death was not linked to the transplant.


GS III- Science and Technology, GS II- Health

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is xenotransplantation?
  2. Why are Pigs Often Used for Xenotransplantation?

What is Xenotransplantation?

  • According to the FDA, xenotransplantation is “any procedure that involves the transplantation, implantation or infusion into a human recipient of either
    • live cells, tissues, or organs from a nonhuman animal source, or
    • human body fluids, cells, tissues or organs that have had ex vivo contact with live nonhuman animal cells, tissues or organs”.
  • Xenotransplantation is seen as an alternative to the clinical transplantation of human organs whose demand around the world exceeds supply by a long distance.
  • Xenotransplantation involving the heart was first tried in humans in the 1980s.
    • A well known case was that of an American baby, Stephanie Fae Beauclair, better known as Baby Fae, who was born with a congenital heart defect, and who received a baboon heart in 1984.
    • The surgery was successful, but Baby Fae died within a month of the transplant after the baboon heart was rejected by her body’s immune system.
    • Even so, Baby Fae managed to survive the xenotransplantation for much longer than in earlier experiments.

Why are Pigs Often Used for Xenotransplantation?

Historical Utilization:

  • Pig heart valves have been employed in human surgeries for over half a century, showcasing the historical use of pigs in medical procedures.

Anatomical and Physiological Resemblance:

  • Pigs exhibit anatomical and physiological similarities to humans, making them suitable candidates for xenotransplantation.
  • These resemblances facilitate compatibility and reduce the risk of rejection in human recipients.

Cost-Effectiveness and Accessibility:

  • The widespread farming of pigs renders them a cost-effective and readily available source for xenotransplantation.
  • Compared to other potential donor species, pigs offer a practical and accessible solution for organ transplantation needs.

Organ Size Variability:

  • Various pig breeds present a diverse range of organ sizes, enabling the selection of organs that closely match the specific requirements of human recipients.
  • This variability allows for customized organ matching, enhancing the success rates of xenotransplantation procedures.

-Source: The Hindu

May 2024