Could farm animals solve the organ donor crisis?

For many who spend years on organ donor lists, the long wait may soon be coming to an unusual end. Thanks to a common farm animal– the pig-  the medical practice of transferring tissues and organs from one species to another (xenotransplantation) has reached new levels, with an entire heart being successfully implanted. The owner of the new organ, David Bennett, underwent an eight-hour long procedure at the University of Maryland Medical Centre after having been admitted to the hospital for weeks for a terminal heart condition.

  Although the use of pig or bovine tissue in valve replacement surgeries is relatively old news, progress in whole organ xenotransplants has been slow. Interest in this alternative to human-to-human transplants waned over the years due to the increased risk posed by organ rejection, where the body’s immune system attacks the foreign tissue after identifying it as a risk. With the long-term consequences of the experimental surgery yet to be seen, medical experts hope observations over the next few months will help confirm the procedure is as successful.

    Advances in gene-editing technology are largely responsible for making such a feat possible. The pig from which Mr Bennett received the heart contained gene-knockouts. In the engineering process, pig DNA is altered to remove the “markers” responsible for organ rejection, after which the animals are raised until their adult organs have developed to an appropriate stage. Expectedly, such a technique raises a slurry of ethical concerns regarding animal rights, the risk posed to potential patients and even religious considerations.

    In the case of this recent surgery, Dr Alka Chandna, Vice President of Laboratory Investigations Cases at PETA states “animal-to-human transplants are unethical, dangerous, and a tremendous waste of resources that could be used to fund research that might actually help humans”.

    The question of whether the ethical concerns raised by animal rights organisations and bioethics professionals are enough to halt xenotransplantation remains unanswered for now. However, there is no denying the positive implications the surgery has for resolving the crisis of organ donor shortages. 

Like Concrete on Facebook to stay up to date


About Author

Mariam Jallow

Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type null in /home/wp_35pmrq/ on line 11

Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type null in /home/wp_35pmrq/ on line 26
August 2022
Latest Comments
  • 1
    Not for me
  • 2
    Decolonising English in Argentina
    We are facing a climate catastrophy, the translation or proofreading could have been done online. Decolonising seems to be used to justify all sorts of things, including bad ones like…
  • 3
    Decolonising English in Argentina
    New forms of saviourism -it never ends this perpetuating of the Global South being something that needs visits from those good-willed who want to "help" from the Global North. It…
About Us

The University of East Anglia’s official student newspaper. Concrete is in print and online.

If you would like to get in touch, email the Editor on Follow us at @ConcreteUEA.