Genetically Altered Pigs: A Solution to Organ Transplant Rejection
Researchers have genetically altered pigs in an effort to make their organs a better match for human patients. These genetic edits include knocking out pig genes to prevent immune rejection and inserting human genes to regulate inflammation, immunity, and blood clotting.
Past Attempts and the Penn Study
Supporting patients with a pig liver outside the body is not a new concept; however, previous attempts were met with limited success. In a recent study at the University of Pennsylvania, researchers observed stable blood flow and pressure, as well as no signs of inflammation, when using genetically modified pig livers for support.
Future Prospects and FDA Approval
Researchers and biotech company eGenesis continue to study the effectiveness of the genetic modifications and hope to conduct further experiments on brain-dead patients with liver failure. They also have plans to discuss an early-phase trial for using the pig system on patients with liver failure with the FDA.
Transplants Using Genetically Engineered Pig Organs
In 2022 and 2023, surgeons at the University of Maryland performed heart transplants using genetically engineered pig organs on two patients with heart failure. While the results were promising, further research and trials are necessary to fully understand the potential outcomes and limitations.
Challenges and Need for Further Research
The combination of genetic modifications and perfusion devices presents significant challenges, and the potential of prolonged organ function in humans remains uncertain. More research and detailed studies are required to assess the long-term viability and effectiveness of these genetically engineered pig organs.
The development of genetically engineered pig organs has shown promising results in initial studies, opening up the potential for addressing the organ shortage crisis. However, further research, clinical trials, and FDA approval are crucial to fully understand the effectiveness and limitations of utilizing these modified organs in humans.
In conclusion, the successful use of a gene-edited pig liver for transplantation in a human patient marks a significant milestone in the field of organ transplantation. The fact that the transplanted liver functioned for 3 days, even without immunosuppressant drugs, demonstrates the potential of gene editing technology to address the shortage of donor organs and improve outcomes for patients in need of transplants. While there are still many challenges to overcome before this technique can be widely used in clinical practice, this breakthrough offers hope for the future of organ transplantation and brings us one step closer to saving more lives.