Pig heart transplant

 

Context:

  • Surgeons in the US have transplanted a pig’s heart inside a human patient in a bold endeavour that represents a remarkable first in the world of medical science.
  • This success could potentially end the years-long backlog of people waiting to receive a healthy organ and open up a brave new world of possibilities.

 

Xenotransplantation:

  • Xenotransplantation is the process of grafting or transplanting organs or tissues between members of different species.
  • It has been pursued by modern medical science for decades, but experts have found it difficult to surmount the challenge presented by the immune system’s rejection of an alien organ, ending in deadly outcomes for patients.

 

How was the transplantation carried out?

  • The transplanted heart was harvested from a pig that had undergone genetic editing that saw scientists remove three genes “that would have led to rejection of pig organs by humans” along with one that would have led to excessive growth of pig heart tissue.
  • Further, six human genes that would have facilitated the organ’s acceptance by the human body were inserted into the pig genome, meaning that a total of 10 unique gene edits were carried out in the pig by the US biotech firm Revivicor.
Why pigs?

Pigs are increasingly becoming popular candidates for organ transplantation. This is because their organs are anatomically similar to those of humans.

 

The organ shortage problem:
  • In India, patients need 25,000-30,000 liver transplants annually. But only about 1,500 end up receiving them.
  • Similarly, nearly 50,000 persons suffer from heart failures annually. Still, only about 10-15 heart transplants are performed every year.

Source: THE HINDU.

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