Xenotransplantation is the process of creating animal cells, including the use of animal organs, in humans for a medical need. The most common act of xenotransplantation is using the heart valve of a pig to be swapped out for a damaged human heart valve. There are other tissues and organs that have also been used, usually from pigs, because they tend to be accepted the best by the human body. Like any medical procedure, there are some pros and cons that need to be considered to see if it would be right for you.
What Are the Pros of Xenotransplantation?
1. It is a temporary fix to wait for an organ donation.
Waiting for critical organ, like a heart, can be a race against a clock where the finish line doesn’t want to be reached. This medical procedure can help to buy patient some time so that if there are delays caused by a shortage of organs, a patient will still have a chance to experience life.
2. It could solve the organ donation crisis for good.
If animal organs could be used to replace human organs on a regular basis, then there would no longer be a need for organ donor lists. A simple medical procedure to swap out organ for another would be the only thing required and this could help save families potentially millions of dollars in care costs.
3. It could treat serious diseases.
Some animals have an amazing ability to fight off disease. By incorporating their cells into the human body, it could be possible to benefit from those disease fighting mechanisms so that better health could be achieved. It would be like having a vaccine, but on a much larger scale.
What Are the Cons of Xenotransplantation?
1. Many procedures would need to be done more than once.
Most animals have shorter lifespans than humans. This means their cells and tissues have shorter lifespans as well. Xenotransplantation procedures would have to be duplicated in order to maintain an overall quality of life.
2. There is a high risk of rejection.
Because these are animal organs and tissues being implanted in human body there is a high likelihood that the immune system of a patient would attack the implanted tissues and cause the medical procedure to ultimately fail.
3. It could facilitate the transfer of diseases from animals to humans.
As the medical community has seen with the adaptation of bacteria to antibiotics, diseases have an amazing ability to mutate to stay alive. By implanting animal tissues into humans, we could be facilitating the evolution process of viruses and bacteria to create new illnesses and diseases that we may not be able to fight off.
Animal organs and tissues have help to save lives even though the field of study is rather limited. Xenotransplantation shows some great promise, but there are some risks associated with the procedure as well. By weighing all of the pros and cons of this medical procedure, we can all come together to determine if the risks are acceptable.
Crystal Lombardo is a contributing editor for Vision Launch. Crystal is a seasoned writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience. She has been an editor of three popular blogs that each have had over 500,000 monthly readers.