Thanks to a breakthrough in stem cells research, we are getting closer to have pigs be used to grow organs for human transplantation. According to the article in the Telegraph, researchers created rats’ organs in mice by injecting stem cells into their embryo. The same science would be used to grow human organs in pigs. Pigs have an anatomy somewhat close to the one of a human and they are mass produced. One of the major benefit of this new technique is it would potentially reduce the risk of rejection since the organ is created from stem cell from the recipient.
Human blood has already been made in pigs by using the same technique of injecting blood stem cells into pig fetuses. This technique has yet to be used to make organs though but has been successful between rats and mice. Professor Nakauchi, director of the center for stem cell biology and regenerative medicine at the University of Tokyo in Japan, states: “We are now rather confident in generating functional human organs using this approach”.
If this becomes reality one day, many years of research are still ahead, it would mostly benefit the patients waiting for kidney and pancreas transplant. These recipients have one luxury that lung, liver and heart patients don’t have; it is called time. It takes time to grow and organ in pigs, certainly a few months. Those sicker patients can’t wait and would still get the majority if not all the organs from deceased donors. But it would certainly help alleviate a big part of organ shortage since 80% of the 110,000 patients waiting need a new kidney. Let’s hope this becomes reality so more patients can be saved!
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