Pig Organs Offer New Hopes for Heart Transplants

patient and medical professional making heart shape with hands (heart transplants)

For people with end-stage heart failure, getting heart transplants can be the difference between life and death when all other treatments have failed.

Yet finding a suitable donor can often be difficult, which is why the medical community has turned to xenotransplantation – organ transplants from one species to another – for a solution.

The biggest hurdle to this approach, however, is the immune response in the person receiving the organ. As we’ve noted in other blog posts, this is an area where porcine tissue – and the pig’s biological similarities to humans – can be of great use.

At NIH’s National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), researchers have spent years developing ways to transplant pig hearts to primates.

“The scientists obtained a group of pigs that were genetically modified in several ways,” the NIH writes on its website.

“First, they lacked a key molecule known to provoke organ rejection. The pigs were also engineered to produce human proteins that suppress blood clotting and activation of the immune response known as the complement cascade—common causes of xenograft failure.”

The researchers transplanted these pigs’ hearts into five baboons and treated the apes with an immune -suppressing regimen “using an immunomodulatory drug (mycophenolate mofetil) and antibodies against key immune system components (CD40 and CD20).”

With these drugs, the pig hearts broke survival records, the longest lasting more than two and a half years, with a mean survival rate of 433 days.

Animal Biotech is proud of the role it has played in this kind of research by providing porcine tissue and look forward to helping with other medical breakthroughs.

Contact us today to learn how we can help you with your next project.