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Xenotransplantation: The Future of Organ Transplantation

Xenotransplantation - The Future of Organ Transplantation - TechSci Research

Healthcare | Feb, 2022

The increasing life expectancy of humans has led to a rising number of patients living with chronic disorders, which may ultimately require organ transplantation for the treatment of their condition and prevent end-stage organ failure. Although clinical transplantation is an effective solution to save lives, the imbalance between organ supply and demand for human organs remains a challenge for the medical community.


According to organ donation statistics, 17 people die each day waiting for an organ transplant. Hence, xenotransplantation, or cross-species transplantation, is considered a promising alternative to resort to the shortage of human tissues, prohibiting most patients from undergoing transplants. The possibility of transplanting animal cells, tissues, or organs in humans could improve mortality rates for conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disorders, diabetes, liver cirrhosis, polycystic kidney diseases, etc.


Domestic Pigs: Optimum Organ Donor

Domestic pigs are considered the best donors of biological materials for xenotransplantation due to their anatomical and physiological similarities to humans, low risk of xenozoonosis, short maturation period, and large litter size. One major obstacle with xenotransplantation is transplant failure, as the body mounts an immune response against the xenografts (transplanted organ or tissue) and rejects it, which could result in the recipient's death.


Hence, the genes of domestic pigs are modified to prevent the recognition of their organs by the human recipient’s immune system and inhibit the process leading to xenograft rejection. Genetically engineered proteins express the human CD47 protein that reduces the risk of organ rejection, and the immune-suppressing drugs target coagulation and inflammation, which increase the duration of organ function. Several techniques that enable precise genetic modification of animals include pronuclear or cytoplasmic microinjection, somatic cell nuclear transfer, viral transduction of DNA.