Skip To Content
Cambridge University Science Magazine
Earlier this year, a man with terminal heart disease in Baltimore, USA, received a pig-heart transplant, marking a landmark moment in medicine. It represented a breakthrough in the development of xenotransplantation - the transplantation of tissues, cells, or organs between different species.

The increase in life expectancy has led to growing numbers of patients experiencing chronic disease and end-stage organ failure. Whilst transplantation of human organs is effective at replacing ailing organs, demand for human organs far exceeds supply. Currently, seventeen patients die each day in the United States while on the waiting list for an organ transplant, with more than 100,000 reportedly on the waiting list. Xenotransplantation might therefore be a promising alternative to bridge the gap between supply and demand of organs, tissues, and cells.

With advances in gene editing and immunosuppressive therapy, clinical xenotransplantation is becoming more viable. Gene editing technology, for instance, can be used to remove genes in the donor animal that is contributing to organ rejection.

However, many animal rights groups are opposed to the use of animal organs for human transplants, claiming that animals have a right to live, without being genetically manipulated for the sole purpose of organ harvesting.

Article by Megan Chan

Image credit: Injurymap

Image licence: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

The background of the original image has been extended