In a major breakthrough, scientists at the Meiji University and Kyoto Prefectural University have developed pigs that can be used for organ transplantation among humans. The team which participated in the study revealed that the animal is the first to be developed for transplantation purpose based on the national guidelines in Japan for xenotransplantation. The research team believes that organs and cells of this animal can be transplanted to humans with minimal risks.
The researchers will present their findings at a forum of the Japanese Society for Xenotransplantation in Suita on Saturday, March 10. They are also planning to join hands with a private company to supply pigs earlier next year for transplantation.
Just hours before delivery, the uterus of the pregnant pig will be removed from its body, and the delivery will be carried out in laboratory conditions. Later, the newborn pig will be raised in sterile conditions and will be given artificial milk. After raising the piglets for three weeks, researchers will conduct 40 kinds of virus tests on various internal organs like pancreas, liver, and kidneys before using it for transplantation.
This is not the first time that pig-to-human xenotransplantations have been conducted. As pig organs function similar to those of human organs, more than 200 transplant cases have been conducted in countries like New Zealand and Russia in response to organ shortages. As of now, no xenotransplantations have been conducted in Japan.
Retrovirus present in pigs is one of the main concern while transplanting organs. However, this virus is not harmful to pigs but considered potentially disease-causing among humans. Even though no reports of pig-to-human retroviral infections in transplants have been reported so far, experts recommend long-term monitoring after transplantation.
As organ donor shortage is prevalent in all nooks of the globe, xenotransplantation using pig organs is expected to overcome this problem and will be a blessing for all patients waiting for organs to overcome life-threatening organ failure.