Organ Transplant
BUSINESS ECONOMICS|March 1-15, 2018

A hundred years from now, if scientists have their way, many humans will be partly pig and baboon. I mean really, not metaphorically

Maneka Sanjay Gandhi

 

Scientists are working on transplanting entire hearts, liver, kidneys, pancreas and lungs from animals to humans. The increasing demand for organs, tissues, and cells, and the dearth of available human organs, have focused scientific interest in taking organs from animals. The term for the transplanting of organs from one species to another is called xenotransplantation and so far it has not worked at all. However entire corporations are at work, slicing and dicing animals so that one day humans can be part pig and part baboon.

The arguments, in favour of animal to human organ transplantation, is that these organs would be available whenever required, instead of making patients wait for months. An immediate transplantation would perhaps result in improved survival. Instead of waiting for a dead human, whose organs are already slightly damaged, the organs could be taken from healthy animals under anaesthesia.

The pig has become the animal of choice for most companies. Thousands of pigs are being killed to use in human bodies. But, before they get to humans, scientists first transplant their organs into the bodies of baboons to see if they can go into a different species.

Why baboons? Humans and baboons have 90% of their DNA in common, so the captive animal becomes a stand in for a human. Why pigs ? Their organs are of the same size as humans.

Which is the ideal animal species for organ transplants. The animal should have the same sort of anatomy, so that the organ can function well in humans. He should not have any disease that can be transmitted to humans. He should be immune to human diseases. He should have no genes that affect human immune systems. He should be inexpensive to breed and keep and have lots of babies every year. And he should be an animal that humans don’t mind killing.

There is no such animal.

Primates may be somewhat alike in anatomy, but they give and get human infections easily. They don’t breed quick enough and humans (except scientists) don’t like killing them.

The pig has large litters several times a year and is cheap to feed. The problem is that its blood and all its genetics are far too different. The pig is an entirely different species. It has been 80 million years since the pig and human diverged on the evolutionary scale. Is it possible to “outwit evolution.”

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