Lately, surgery has made the headlines across the world. For the first time in the world, a pig’s heart has been implanted inside a human. This feat has been achieved by the doctors of the USA, who have successfully transplanted a pig’s heart in a 57-year-old man. It is being considered a big leap in the medical science, which is a step to give a new hope to the world struggling with the shortage of organ transplant. Hundreds of people die every day around the world due to a lack of organ transplants. For the first time in the world, a pig’s heart was transplanted into a human. Although pig heart valves have been used to replace human valves in the past, this is the first time a pig’s heart has been transplanted. Transplantation of animal organs in humans is called xenotransplantation. On the backdrop of this, let’s understand what is it?
First, understand the risk involved in organ transplant:
Whenever an organ is transplanted into the human body, the human body considers that organ as an alien object. Our immune system detects the antigens on the cells of the transplanted organ do not match with the existing antigens in the body. When this happens, the body rejects the transplanted organ. At times, the body reacts against the transplanted organ considering it to be harmful to the body.
If the transplant fails, that organ does not work properly. Many times, due to organ transplant failure, a person also comes across cases of cancer like lung cancer, liver cancer or kidney.
What is Xenotransplantation?
The process of transplanting animal organs into humans is called xenotransplantation. It is the process in which organs such as the heart, kidney or liver of animals are transplanted into the human body. Although the process of xenotransplantation is centuries old, there has not been much success in it.
In 1960, 13 people were transplanted with chimpanzee kidneys, 12 of whom died within a week of the transplant, while one patient lived for nine more months. The process of xenotransplantation almost stopped after an incident in 1984. In 1984, a baby langur heart was transplanted into a baby born with a heart condition in California, but the baby died a few months after the transplant. Even after this, some unsuccessful attempts were made. For example, in June 1992, for the first time, a monkey’s liver was transplanted into the human body. The patient died of a brain haemorrhage 70 days after the transplant. American scientists have also experimented with transplanting a pig kidney into a brain-dead woman in October 2021.
This development can bring us one step closer to solving the organ shortage on a global scale.
Pigs are becoming increasingly popular for organ transplantation. Pig organs are beneficial because they are easy to grow and attain adult human size in six months. Pig heart valves are routinely transplanted into humans and some patients with diabetes are provided with porcine pancreas cells.