Can GM pigs be a viable supply of transplant organs?

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Alma Vasquez

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Alma Vasquez asked the Naked Scientists:
   Currently, we have a severe shortage of organ transplants, why haven't we used pig organs to transplant to humans? That would solve the shortage

The patient would have to take immune suppression drugs regardless if the organs were human or pigs.

Pig organs would be superior, because they would be young , raised on a healthy diet/enviroment, and virus free.

Human organs would be older , and raised under non ideal circumstances (motorcycle accident victims being in their 30's, may have had other vices like cigarettes, alcohol,and illegal drugs)

I imagine in the future, you would not have to wait till a human dies so that another human may live.

I imagine that we would have different pig lines, each line for the various human genotypes, and your doctor would take your blood and some of your marrow, and have a series of pigs specially tailored to fit your body.

A technician would put some of your bone marrow into the pig's bone marrow while they were developing and that when they matured a year later, all the organs that the pigs have would be totally compatible to you and you would not need immune suppression drugs because the pigs had been tailored to the human's immune system.

I imagine, that when people get to their 70's, & 80"s, they'd get new organs, whenever they needed it, and be as fit as people in their 40's and 50's.  And people could live to 150 or 200 yrs.

thank you for reading my email.

Alma Vasquez of Hagerstown Maryland
What do you think?
« Last Edit: 09/09/2011 07:01:02 by _system »


Offline CliffordK

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Can GM pigs be a viable supply of transplant organs?
« Reply #1 on: 09/09/2011 10:19:22 »
Porcine heart valves are commonly used, perhaps because they are mainly connective tissue.  Apparently they can be treated to remove antigens (something that would not be possible with "living" tissue).

I'm not sure that they've completely resolved issues of tissue rejection with pig organs, although certainly that may be possible in the not too distant future.  With any organ transplant, it is important to match donor and recipient antigens as closely as possible.  And, even so, tissue rejection drugs are required except in twin transplants and bone marrow transplants.  Pig organs would cause far too vigorous of an immune reaction.

Also, keep in mind that while the pig organs would be harvested young, the natural lifespan of a pig is somewhere between 10 and 20 years or so, so the organs might not endure indefinitely. 

Likely a future development will be the ability to create a chimera in which a real human organ tailored for the recipient will be grown either entirely in the lab, or in a non-human host.