Updated: Dec 27, 2019
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The Biotechnology Learning Hub in New Zealand has revealed that in the early 1900s several attempts were made towards the implementation of xenotransplantation procedures, but they were unsuccessful. Today after 100 years, a new development has proven that xenotransplantation treatments may become available soon. Xenotransplantation is the ability to transplant living animal cells, tissues, or organs from one species to another, for example, transplanting animal organs into humans.
As early as the 1900s Physicians were performing transplantation on humans with failing organs by using tissues from pigs, lambs, goats, and monkeys, but due to several failed attempts, ultimately the procedure was abandoned.
Furthermore, in 1944, a scientist named Peter Medawar finally discovered that transplant organs or tissue are triggered by an immune response in the recipients, causing organ rejection. Usually, this immune response is a protective barrier against disease-causing pathogens, such as viruses and bacteria in the human body.
After the transplantation process, the immune system recognizes that the donor tissues to be foreign, thus attacking it, leading to transplantation rejection and failure. Originally non-human primates such as chimpanzees and baboon were used as xenotransplant donors, but due to health issues about the spreading of infectious diseases, and ethical concerns this procedure was terminated.
In our modern society, the majority of researchers are using
pigs as donors because:
They are easy to breed and have large litters
Pathogen-free pig breeds are available Pig organs are a similar size to human organs
Risk of infectious diseases is lower than non-human primates. Pigs has been utilized for food, so using pigs may raise fewer ethical concerns than non-human primates.