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Pig Kidneys in Humans: A New Frontier

by Tyler Pham


If you are a patient with chronic kidney disease or a dialysis patient with kidney failure, you are most likely familiar with the severe shortage of human kidneys available for transplantation. For those who are unaware, the waitlist for a kidney transplant at most centers can be a staggering three to five years on average, according to the National Kidney Foundation. Furthermore, these transplants can also be quite costly, providing another barrier to receiving a kidney transplant. However, receiving a kidney transplant and not having to worry about kidney disease or dialysis would be life-changing for many. Because of this, scientists have been looking for ways to make kidneys more accessible for transplantation. Recently, a huge breakthrough has just been made: pig kidneys.


That is, researchers at NYU have just found that a pig kidney can function in a deceased body for seven days, possibly more, at a normal level similar to a human kidney. So far, it seems that pig kidneys could provide significant benefits and advantages over human kidneys. Firstly, they are readily available in large numbers, as pigs are common farm animals. They will also likely be more affordable thanks to the large supply. With pig kidneys, doctors could get numerous patients off dialysis and back into a comfortable lifestyle.


On the other hand, being not well-researched yet, pig kidneys also hold potential risks for those that receive them. First and foremost, there is always the chance that the transplant recipient’s body would reject the foreign organ. Furthermore, the capacity of the pig kidney to transmit diseases or other harmful substances to its new host are not well understood, either. Other issues include if it could affect the fetus of a pregnant woman or if pig DNA in a human body could pose a problem. Lastly, the ethics of obtaining organs from pigs and genetically modifying them to be fit for humans loom over this breakthrough as well.


To conclude, pig kidneys could provide a long-awaited solution for the approximately half a million people currently living on dialysis. However, their safety and effectiveness in humans has yet to be fully determined. So far, though, research is looking very promising.


Sources:

  1. Two-Month Study of Pig Kidney Xenotransplantation Gives New Hope to the Future of the Organ Supply

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