Human Exceptionalism

Breakthrough! Animal Parts and Organs To Be Used in Humans

If this is true, it is huge. A breakthrough in preventing tissue rejection may permit animal parts and organs to be transplanted into humans–a process known as xenotransplantation. From the story:

Blood vessels, tendons and bladders from animals are to be used in humans for the first time after a breakthrough in transplant surgery.

Scientists have overcome the problem of rejection, which has previously prevented animal tissues from being used in patients. It opens the way for a range of new procedures using animal parts.

Children could be given pigs’ heart valves that can grow with them, avoiding the need for repeated surgery; tissues such as ligaments, which have previously been difficult or impossible to repair, could be replaced; and eye patients could even be provided with new corneas.

By stripping the animal tissue of its cells with a series of chemical treatments, the scientists were left with a biological scaffold that provides a structure but no longer carries the factors that can trigger a recipient’s body to reject a transplant. When the scaffold is surgically inserted into the patient’s body, his or her own cells grow into it to create new tissue.

Because the patient’s own cells fill the scaffold to create the tissue, scientists say there are no problems with rejection and the tissues are also able to regenerate, allowing them to last longer.

Before we go over the top with excitement, there is still the issue of potential viruses crossing the species barrier to consider. But perhaps this procedure is able to avoid that problem since some parts, like pig valves already in use in heart surgery, don’t appear to carry that risk.

In any event, this story fits right in with two consistent themes here at SHS. First, some of the best biotechnology is not controversial, at least not from a human exceptionalism POV. Second, animal research offers tremendous human benefit. Let’s continue to move forward with all dispatch.