There is an inadequate supply of human donor organs for transplantation. But the animal-to-human transplantation (xenotransplantation) could save millions of lives while offering an unlimited supply of organs and cells for clinical transplantation.
But the animal-to-human transplants are complicated
The human immune system detects that the antigens on the cells of the organ are different or not “matched.” The mismatched organs or organs that are not matched closely enough trigger a transplant rejection.
Scientists have been working to make it a reality and now it appears their efforts have paid off
For the first time in history, a team of researchers in the US has successfully transplanted a pig’s kidney to a human patient.
This was the second time this year that scientists were able to transplant a pig kidney into a human without any short-term concerns. The new procedure was performed by NYU Langone Health’s surgical team last month.
A genetically modified pig’s kidney was transplanted into a human
One major limitation of non-human organs is that most mammals including pigs naturally produce a sugar called alpha-gal, which humans do not produce. The alpha-gel elicits an aggressive human rejection response. But the researchers genetically modified the pig kidneys to suit the humans.
The pig was genetically engineered by Revivicor, a subsidiary of United Therapeutics Corporation. The process was approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use as a source for human therapeutics.