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Ethical Dilemma in Animal Organs for Human Transplant
Posted 9/16/16 10:36:48 AM

If you’re unfamiliar with the term Xenotransplantation, it is the transplantation of organs, living cells, or tissues from one species to another.

In the last couple of years, the Cardiothoracic Surgery Research Program of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) had success keeping genetically engineered piglet hearts inside the abdomens of baboons for over a year.

This research caused a lot of controversy and was called a nightmare by some,  but xenotransplantation is a credible science led by widely successful and respected scientists from various organizations ranging from NHLBI, and the Mayo Clinic, as well as other large pharmaceutical companies such as Novartis. 

Some might question, why should we transplant animal organs to humans? Simple.

The very limited supply of organs from human donors cannot make up for the demand of hospital patients needing healthy organs for transplant.

 

The statistics have a way of showing us a clearer picture as to why. In the US alone, there had been an 5 times increase of organ demand in the past two decades –from 23, 198 in 1991 to 121, 272 in 2013.

So while the rates of people who want to donate have doubled –from 6, 953 in 1991 to 14, 257 in 2013, it’s not enough.

 

Some of the researchers try to fill this gap by developing mechanical components that can aid failing organs, but they haven fallen short in terms of curing a disease by introducing complications such as risk for infection, blood clots, and bleeding.

 

While the growing and unstoppable demand is a big part of this research, some people are still frowning upon this practice of cross-species transplantation.  

 

Aside from the moral issues treading around the subject, there has also been a long-standing debate about animal virus contacting the human host that will cause rapid spread to the general population.

 

Despite the dissenting viewpoints, researchers of xenotransplantation are firm on saving the lives of people as their top priority.  

 

You can learn more about xenotransplantation at the links below:

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/organfarm/regulators/clark.html

http://www.biotechlearn.org.nz/themes/xenotransplantation_and_organ_donation/xenotransplantation

http://web.stanford.edu/dept/HPS/transplant/html/fda.htm

https://www.nhmrc.gov.au/health-ethics/ethical-issues/animal-human-transplantation-research-xenotransplantation