In what can be called a major setback for the healthcare system, the first man from the US who was given a genetically modified pig heart during transplantation died within two months post-surgery. The 57-year-old, David Bennett Sr. began to experience a bad health condition, and he had been bedridden for six weeks and was hooked up to a machine that kept him alive. Now, the question that arises is whether the success of animal-to-human transplantation is unlikely in the near future. According to the experts, it is not impossible, but can be expected only after the next 30-40 years.
Xenotransplantations - Where It All Began
Any kind of transplantation which involves both human and a non-human source is known as xenotransplantation. This process dates back to the 17th century when it was first introduced. In medical words, xenotransplantation is any procedure that involves the transplantation, implantation any kind of infusion into a human recipient with the organs from a nonhuman animal source.
Speaking to IANS, Dr. Sudhindran S., Professor, Dept. of Gastrointestinal Surgery, at Amrita Hospital, Kochi said that, nobody has, so far, made any lasting progress in animal-to-human transplant. "We are unlikely to see a major breakthrough in the next 30-40 years because the process involves a situation where an animal organ becomes acceptable to the human body. To overcome the rejection process, it requires a multitude of steps that are intricately complex and definitely not going to be easy for long-term success," he said.
However, Dr. Udgeath Dhir, Director, and Head, CTVS, Fortis Hospital, Gurugram disagreed with this and said that xenotransplantation may be a success as animal organs would be made more compatible with the human body. Speaking to the media about the same, he said, "In the near future, we are damn confident that we will be able to go for xenotransplantation where we are going to modify the immune system or rather balance the immune system in such a way that the body accepts these organs as a part and doesn't reject it." He further noted that this field has a lot coming in the future, and more diversities can be expected. He also said that with the development of several new technologies, experts can now modify the DNA, which is one of the most important parts of the human body.
US Man Given Modifically Pig Heart
In a rare medical case, doctors in the US, earlier this year had transplanted a genetically modified pig heart to a 57-year-old man, named David Benett. The patient was suffering from a rare terminal disease that was linked to a heart disorder. However, following the surgery, the man was doing well and his heart was also functional normal. According to the reports, this continued for over months, with absolutely no signs of rejection. But, this didn't continue for a longer period and the man, after two months, started complaining about the loss of strength and other health issues. The man started experiencing health issues and later he died.
Was this due to the modifically pig heart transplantation? experts have stated that so far, there is no confirmation about this. According to some of the researchers involved in xenotransplantation procedures, successful transplantation never means that it is going to remain the same for a long-term period. According to the them, the main challenge in the process has been the immunological barriers that lead to the rejection of pig organs by the human immune system.
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In another incident, researchers had transplanted pig kidneys into a brain-dead human, which was not rejected and also produced urine. A similar one was also performed by the doctors at NYU Langone Health, New York, the same year.
But Why Only Were Pig Organs Picked For The Process?
Talking about why only pigs are chosen for organ transplantations, experts say that the pig model is more preferred because of physiological similarities to humans. There is also a very limited risk of infection associated with pigs to human organ transplantation as compared to other non-human primates. Doctors also say that the genetic sequencing of pigs and humans matches very well, as compared to other non-human primates.