Monday, September 27, 2010

More on Transplanted Pig Organs – Xenotransplantation

Although xenotransplantation has not progressed far enough to allow transplanting a pig organ to a human, there are other exciting opportunities in the works for xenotransplantation in the not to distant future.

Individuals that develop liver failure often die before a suitable donor can be found or before the damaged liver can heal on its own. There is no artificial liver comparable to the dialysis machine for kidney failure. But using a specially develop pig liver outside the body to cleanse the person’s blood of noxious compounds is a possibility. There have been some positive results using a normal or a genetically modified pig liver for such “extracorporeal” perfusion until a donor organ is available or until the patient’s liver recovers on its own.

Progress has also been made with genetically modified insulin-producing pancreas islet cells for treating diabetes. One approach is to place the transplanted islet cells into a “capsule” that allows insulin to exit out and nutrients like glucose to enter in yet keeps immune cells that would destroy the islet cells at bay outside the capsule.
Further progress in xenotransplantation is likely but there are significant barriers to success. Genetic modification of the pig is possible but it is not yet clear all of the modifications that will be necessary. Concurrently, work is progressing to develop immune modulation with drugs just as is done to suppress the immune system with human to human organ transplants. Further development of encapsulation may aide the process, especially with islet cell transplantation for diabetes.

Despite all of the progress to date, the barriers to success are very real and only time will tell if xenotransplantation will become a truly viable path to organ replacement

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

LCT in New Zealand is conducting human clinical trials using pigs from a special herd (not genetically modified). It's very exciting work towards restoring euglycemia without toxic immunosuppression. Learn more here

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