Pig Heart Transplantation to Humans – UPSC Prelims

Pig Heart Transplantation to Human:
  • A US man has become the first person in the world to get a heart transplant from a genetically-modified pig.
  • This is the first successful transplant of a pig’s heart into a human being. However, it’s too soon to know if the operation really will work.
  • The earlier attempts of animal-to-human transplants or xenotransplantation have failed largely because patients bodies rapidly rejected the animal organ. In 1984, Baby Fae, a dying infant, lived 21 days with a baboon heart.
How was this animal to human transplantation different? This time, the surgeons used a heart from a pig that had undergone gene-editing to remove a sugar in its cells that’s responsible for that hyper-fast organ rejection.
Why was Pig chosen for Transplantation?
  • Pigs offered advantages over other animals for organ procurement as they are easier to raise, reach maturation faster and achieve adult human size in six months.
  • Pig heart valves are routinely transplanted into humans, and some patients with diabetes have received pig pancreas cells. Pig skin has also been used as temporary grafts for burn patients.
What is the significance of this transplantation?
  • This marks a significant step in the decades-long quest to one day use animal organs for life-saving transplants.
  • Procedures like this will usher in a new era in medicine in the future, when replacement organs are no longer in short supply.

What are the ethical issues associated with animal to human transplantation?
  • Medical Implications: Animal to human transplantation brings with it huge risks for the patient. Even well-matched human donor organs can be rejected after they are transplanted – and with animal organs the danger is likely to be higher.
  • Animal Rights: The treatment has also re-sparked a debate over the use of pigs for human transplants, which many animal rights groups oppose.  Activists say it is wrong to modify the genes of animals to make them more like humans.
Scroll to Top