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German researchers, by the end of this year (2022), hope to create a pig that has the potential to save countless lives — as it will be engineered genetically to have the perfect organs for pig transplantation for humans.
Each day, on average, 17 people from the United States who are on the transplant waiting list die because the donor organ needed was not available in time. This is because the demand for organs dramatically surpasses the donated human organs.
For more than a century now, surgeons have tried to transplant body parts from pigs, cows, and primates into people. However, most people’s bodies rejected the organ soon after the transplant.
Successful Pig Heart Transplant
On January 7, 2022, a Maryland man got a heart transplant from a pig that had been genetically modified to adapt to the immune system of a human.
To this point, his body seems to be accepting the heart as its own — he is now doing physical therapy to build strength to get his mobility back, along with the help of a walker.
Researchers from Alabama revealed that they had transplanted two pig kidneys into a brain-dead man with his family allowing the surgery. The kidneys performed great for three days after the transplant until the study was over.
The pig kidneys and heart for those transplants worked because of the regenerative medicine company Revivicor. In addition, they had made ten edits to the animals’ genomes for the less likelihood of organ rejection by a human body.
Genetically Modified Pigs
Scientists in Munich at Ludwig-Maximilians University (LMU) are now planning to breed their own genetically modified pigs for their organs to give to humans for transplants.
The research team believes the first generation of pigs will be born by 2022. After that, the pig hearts will be tested in baboons, and the researchers hope to get approval for the human clinical trials in about two years.
According to the researchers, by restricting the number of edits done to the pigs, the scientists may have an easier time detailing the effects of every modification and tracing any issues back to the primary source.
CiMM and Revivicor are not the only companies breeding pigs for organ transplants; Massachusetts’ eGenesis is in preclinical trials with their engineered pig kidneys, and China’s Qihan Biotech is already transplanted genetically modified pig organs into non-human primates.
Pig and other animal organs are not the only probable solution to the organ shortage. Scientists are also looking at ways to grow new organs from people’s cells, cutting out the need for immunosuppressants and allowing anyone who needs a new organ can get one.