The first successful cross species transplant or so called xenotransplant has been successfully conducted in US without immediate rejection.
Not a new idea but traditionally animal to human transplants have been technically difficult. Despite the fact that the organs have almost similar functions, the survival of transplanted organ inside human body hasn’t been feasible till now due to bodies self defence mechanisms which identify the transplanted organ as a foreign body and lead to its destruction, a process known as rejection.
The trial procedure carried out by researchers at the New York university (NYU Langone medical center) in september 2021, consisted of transplantion of a kidney obtained from a genetically modifed pig to a human. The kidney was transplanted to the patients leg on the outside and connected with patients blood vessels. The procedure was consented for by the family of patient who was brain dead on ventilatory support.
The team lead, Dr Robert Montgomery, declared this as a medical breakthrough, describing the trial, the team observed the physical apearance and the urine production by the kidney was comparable to a human’s. The kidney continued to function till the study lasted i.e. 54 hours. The recipients abnormal creatinine levels returned to normal after the transplant.
How this was accomplished?
Researchers genetically modifed the pig kidney to skip certain molecules or target that a human body has antibodies against, which immediately attack when it comes in contact. This way the modified transplanted organ avoids being targeted and rejected by the human body.
Researchers are confident that this is the way forward for human organ transplantation and overcoming the shortage of human donor organs. The aim for living human transplant trial is in a year or two.
There is a huge waiting time for transplant recipients waiting for their turn due to scarcity of donor organs in the developed world and more so in developing countries like Pakistan.
But this procedure will need to pass through several trials and longer studies, and be subject to ethical and religious considerations, prior to its widespread adaptation.