FEB 25, 2017 10:52 AM PST

How Pigs Can Help Transplant Patients Get Off the Waitlist

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) tabulated that 122,563 people currently are in need of a lifesaving organ transplant. They estimate that on average, 22 people die each day while waiting for a transplant didn't happen, because of a shortage in human organ donations. But what if we look elsewhere for organs to transplant?

Indeed, scientists have looked to other animals as potential organ donors, a process known as xenotransplantation. Pigs are, surprisingly enough, considered the next best candidate for providing organs for human transplants. The organs of the pig are exposed to a similar immune system as humans, and also shares similar functions and a close size match to ours. Already pigs have been of great service to medicine, as doctors have been replacing damaged human heart valves with pig valves for the past 50 years.

In addition, scientists have found a few ways to block a pig antigen called α-1,3-galactose that seems to trigger most of the immune responses. They've created a pig that's entirely missing the α-gal, removing the antigen completely. Advances with gene editing techniques like CRISPR-Cas9 will also prove pivotal in overcoming immune challenges with cross-species organ transplantation. Watch the video to learn more about how these animals are transforming transplant medicine.
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
You May Also Like
JUL 31, 2020
Space & Astronomy
How Many Missions to Mars Have Been Successful?
JUL 31, 2020
How Many Missions to Mars Have Been Successful?
It’s commonly said that roughly half of all missions to Mars have succeeded- while roughly half have failed. But a ...
AUG 25, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Carbon Foam Spacecraft Could Travel 4.37 Light Years in 185 Years
AUG 25, 2020
Carbon Foam Spacecraft Could Travel 4.37 Light Years in 185 Years
A new study has found that carbon-foam spacecraft could fly between Earth and Alpha Centauri, the closest planetary syst ...
SEP 10, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Reprogramming Virus to Build Better Li-ion Batteries
SEP 10, 2020
Reprogramming Virus to Build Better Li-ion Batteries
There's no doubt that the word "virus" is currently on everyone's mind. However, there's a lot mor ...
SEP 24, 2020
Plants & Animals
High Arctic Polar Bears are Temporarily Benefitting from Climate Change
SEP 24, 2020
High Arctic Polar Bears are Temporarily Benefitting from Climate Change
For the past few decades, polar bears have been harbingers of climate change. However, not every polar bear subpopu ...
SEP 25, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Colossal Study for the Missing (Anti)Matter
SEP 25, 2020
Colossal Study for the Missing (Anti)Matter
Physicists believe that our observable universe exists in a mirrored configuration: any fundamental particle such as pro ...
OCT 01, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Four Lakes Detected Under Martian Surface
OCT 01, 2020
Four Lakes Detected Under Martian Surface
  Researchers from Roma Tre University in Italy have confirmed the existence of four large lakes under the ice at M ...
Loading Comments...