Xenotransplantation or xenograft means the transplantation of a graft (an organ for example) where the donor is of a species different from the biological recipient. It thus opposes the allotransplantation or allograft where the graft comes from the same species as the recipient.
Pork is one of the best animal organ donors for humans, mainly because of its availability and the size of its organs.
University students who are about to write a research paper on xenotransplantation should know that this technique is still experimental for organs and cells. It is expected to grow due to the shortage of human organs for allograft. It competes with other lines of research that are mechanical substitution of failing organs (artificial heart) and stem cells.
In 1905, a surgeon in Lyon, Mathieu Jaboulay, tried the first xenograft trying to transplant a kidney goat to a woman who gave birth. All xenograft attempts were unsuccessful because of acute organ rejection. In the United States, Dr. Keith Reemtsma conducted a dozen kidney transplantations from a chimpanzee to humans in 1963. The longest survival was that of a girl of 23, who survived nine months, and was able to resume her work as a teacher during this period. It may also include interventions by Professor Jules Traeger from Lyon.
This technique is used for grafting pig heart valves in humans. The animal tissue is however chemically treated to remove from it any immunogenic factors and does not contain any living cell, allowing a prolonged use, without further processing. The same pig tendons treated with the same technique used in orthopedics. The stage is, for now, and experimental (in non-human primates). The main obstacle remains the graft rejection. One of the problematic gene is galactose-α-1,3-galactose, does not exist in humans. A genetically modified pig deficient in this antigen could be reared, for better tolerance of transplanted organs. The immunological problem, however, is not controlled, with significant bleeding disorders, inflammatory syndrome, and chronic rejection despite immunosuppressive treatment.
Injection of the pancreatic cells secreting insulin could theoretically treat diabetes. The encapsulation of these cells theoretically allows to avoid contact of the immune system of the host. A first attempt was made in the human being in the late 1990s with a decline of 10 years showing the persistence of the grafted cell activity.
Tests were also conducted with primate stem on neural cells, liver cells (hepatocytes), blood cells, etc.
There is a risk of transmission of animal to man, which can be minimized by controlling the donor but infectious diseases cannot be abolished. In addition, immune problems are important (intolerance of “non-self”).
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