Using Animal Organs For Humans: How Viable Is The Medical Procedure Of Xenotransplantation?

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The Logical Indian Crew

Using Animal Organs For Humans: How Viable Is The Medical Procedure Of Xenotransplantation?

Xenotransplantation is seen as an alternative to the clinical transplantation of human organs whose demand around the world exceeds supply by a long distance.

In January 2022, a US citizen became the world's first to obtain a heart transplant from a genetically modified pig. David Benett, 57, fared well for a few days after his surgery before finally succumbing to complications in two months. Medical experts worldwide called it a landmark in medicine that could drastically reduce waiting for a transplant. Benett was suffering from severe arrhythmia, a life-threatening disorder affecting the rhythm of his heartbeats. Moreover, several major transplant centres had ruled the patient out from undergoing a conventional heart transplant.

What Is Xenotransplantation?

Xenotransplantation is seen as an alternative to the clinical transplantation of human organs whose demand worldwide exceeds supply by a long distance. The medical procedure was first tried on humans in the 1980s, when an American baby, Stephanie Fae Beauclair, popularly called Baby Fae, received a baboon's heart after she was born with congenital heart disease. Even though the surgery initially appeared successful, the baby died within a month because her immune system had rejected the animal's heart.

In Benett's case, it is not yet clear if the cause of his death was the rejection response from his immune system to the organ. Moreover, the heart valves of a pig have been used for humans for more than 50 years now. Since the anatomical and physiological parameters are similar to humans', breeding pigs in extensive farms is a readily available and cost-effective method only if it succeeds.

Controversies Surrounding Xenotransplantation

BBC reported that several medical experts have said in complex procedures like organ transplants, even well-matched human donors could be rejected after the transplant. Therefore, the dangers in the case of an animal's organ transplant are even more severe. Moreover, several animal rights activists have opposed the process of using an animal for organ transplants amongst humans. Another difficulty could emerge around those whose faiths might mean it is tricky to receive an animal organ. For instance, Jews and Muslims have strict rights on the use of animals. For Islam, the bottom line is that they can use pig if it saves a human life, and in Jews, receiving a pig heart is "not in any way a violation of the Jewish dietary laws".

Therefore, the debate of using animal organs for humans remains a controversial question. While medical experts are trying all clinical trials to use animal hearts to increase the lifespan amongst humans, however, one cannot deny that the procedure means prioritizing human life over animal life.

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