Have you heard about the research being conducted to improve the use of pig hearts for human transplants?
A recent article from Discover Magazine reported on a study in which researchers were able to keep a baboon alive for 6 months with a transplanted pig heart. While pig hearts are similar to primate hearts, a major problem with xenotransplantation is that they are not only bigger to begin with, they also continue to grow after being transplanted, which can wreak havoc on blood pressure regulation. The ability to successfully keep an animal alive with a transplanted heart was an amazing feat that was accomplished with the help of gene editing tools used to modify the pig heart to lower immune reactions that may result from the interspecies transplant as well as to help prevent blood clots.
This study is a huge breakthrough as the waiting list for humans needing transplants keeps outgrowing the list of potential donors. But it does not mean that xenotransplantation is necessarily right around the corner. There are a lot of hurdles to cross first as this type of transplant can still come with a lot of complications.
Categories: Comparative Physiology