Pig to monkey heart transplant has worked for six months.

One of the major problems in heart transplantation in humans is the shortage of organs to satisfy current clinical demand. Although the use of genetically modified pig hearts has been proposed as a potential solution, and preclinical tests have been carried out in baboon models, to date, the longest survival of a baboon that received a transplanted pig heart was 57 days. Therefore, it might also be safe for use in humans, when and if xenotransplantation has advanced far enough to allow initial clinical trials. However, according to the results of a study published in Nature, it seems that a great step has been taken in this respect, as this article reports that genetically modified pig to monkeys hearts transplanted may remain functional in the long term (more than six months), thanks to an improvement in the technical process (1). Thus, although a larger study is required, this approach — the first to produce consistently successful results — represents an important move towards the clinical use of pig donor hearts in human patients (see moreHERE).

(1) The authors used an optimized process for preserving the pig hearts during transplantation. Typically, hearts are kept immersed in an ice-cold storage solution. However, the organ’s tissue can be damaged when blood is recirculated through it. The researchers found that organ survival after pig to monkey heart transplantation could be improved by intermittently pumping (perfusing) a blood-based, oxygenated solution containing nutrients and hormones through the hearts at 8 °C during the procedure.

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