The heart pumps blood throughout the circulatory system.
Advances in transplant technologycould pave the way for the use of animal organs in people some day — which could help solve the problem of the donor organ shortage, researchers say.
In a new study, scientists transplanted hearts from genetically engineered pigs into baboons whose immune systems had been suppressed, to prevent them from rejecting the transplants.
The transplanted hearts survived in their recipients for more than 500 days, the researchers reported today (April 28)at a meeting of the American Association for Thoracic Surgery in Toronto. The research has not been published in a peer-reviewed medical journal, but it has been submitted for publication. [Humans 2.0: Replacing the Mind and Body]
About 120,000 patients are waiting for organ transplants in the United States — far more people than the number of human donors, said Dr. Muhammad Mohiuddin, chief of transplantationat the National Institutes of Health's National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.
"If we do these transplants using nonhuman donors, we will be able to save most of these precious lives," Mohiuddin told Live Science.
Transplanting organs from animals, known as xenotransplantation, could replace human organs completely, or provide a stopgap until a human organ becomes available. But tissue rejection by the recipient's immune system remains a major hurdle to successful transplantation.
To overcome this problem, Mohiuddin and his colleagues used hearts from pigs that had been genetically engineered to remove genes known to cause tissue rejection in humans, and replaced them with human genes that wouldn't cause an immune reaction. Pigs were chosen because their anatomy is similar to humans', and they mature very quickly.
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