Updated: Nov 4, 2021
If a pig’s kidney could save my life, “oink oink,” I say.
Our dreams are the herald of all possibility. Our efforts become the magic dust that turns impossible to possible.
I do believe human possibility is only as limited by the extent of human imagination and our dedication to try, fail and repeat. Or maybe with each new scientific discovery, we are remembering just how powerful we really are. We have the ability to extend our own lives.
Have you ever heard of xenotransplanation?
No worries I hadn’t either until doing research for this blog.
Xenotransplantation is the transplanting of animal organs into human bodies. Scientists have been wanting to do this for forever. And now it seems scientists have gotten one step closer to animal organs being an option for human life.
Organ transplants are complicated procedures because they can lead to incompatibility and rejection by the recipient. This risk is common in human to human transplants. But when the transplanted organ is from a different species, let’s say a pig, to a human (i.e. xenograft), then the risk is greater and the procedure is even more impossible. Especially, since a pig’s genes contain molecules that cause human bodies to immediately reject the incoming pig’s organ.
In theory, if you can have a pig without that molecule, it becomes possible that a pig’s organ could be transplanted into a human body without rejection. This impossibility would be the salvation for many who need a kidney and have been on the waiting list for years. This impossibility becoming possible creates endless possibilities for extended life for humanity. Pigs could now be your salvation.
In 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved an “intentional genomic alteration (IGA) in a line of domestic pigs, referred to as GalSafe pigs, which may be used for food or human therapeutics.” The FDA approved the IGA pigs for both food and therapeutic uses.
At New York City’s NYU Langone Health, the door may have cracked open for impossibility to become a reality. Scientists at this facility performed a xenotransplantation between a human and an IGA pig. The doctors used a pig that had gene alterations, meaning the pig no longer had the molecule that caused immediate rejection by the human body. The human recipient was a brain-dead female patient on life support who had kidney dysfunction. This patient’s family consented to the experiment before taking the patient off life support.
The doctors attached the pig’s kidney to the patient’s blood vessels. And the kidney was maintained outside the patient’s body for three days.
The doctors observed the patient and tested the kidney’s function and concluded
-the pig’s kidney made sufficient urine for the human;
-no evidence of early rejection by the human; and
- the human recipient’s creatinine level returned normal after transplant.
All signs of a functioning pig kidney in a human body.
Pig kidneys may not be the norm right now because more research and testing have to be done, but this transplant definitely opens the door to new possibilities.
If you needed an organ donor, and there was a pig that was a perfect match, would you accept a pig’s organ if it could save your life?
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