Pig lungs for human transplants overcome big hurdle

February 3, 2010

(ChattahBox) –  With wait times for lung transplants often stretching over a year or more an alternative may be on the horizon soon.  Scientists in Melbourne, Australia, were able to keep pig lungs alive and “breathing” while human blood flowed in them, using a ventilator and pump. Previous attempts to combine unmodified pig lungs and human blood ended abruptly two years ago when blood clots began forming almost immediately, causing the organs to become so blocked no blood could pass through.

Dr Glenn Westall, who helped conduct the experiment, said via The Telegraph:

“It showed that these lungs were working perfectly well and doing as we were expecting them to do.

“This is a significant advance compared to experiments that have been performed over the past 20 years.”

But a new breakthrough came after scientists were able to remove a section of pig DNA, which had made the pig organs incompatible with human blood. Human DNA is now added to the pigs as they are reared to reduce clotting and the number of lungs which are rejected. The full results of the research are due to be announced in Vancouver in August.  Meanwhile the ethical debate about the use of animals for human transplants, becomes even more complicated when they are altered with human DNA.


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