What are the Pros and Cons of Xenotransplantation?

What are the pros and cons of xenotransplantation? For the average person, xenotransplantation is not a word that crops up very often in everyday conversation, but for those with an interest in bioethics, xenotransplantation is a very controversial topic, so what exactly is it and what are the pros and cons of xenotransplantation?

Xenotransplantation involves the use of animal organs, tissue and cells for transplantation into humans. The most common example of xenotransplantation is the use of pig organs and there have been several recorded cases of heart patients successfully receiving pig valves.

The whole idea is somewhat reminiscent of a Frankenstein scenario, but xenotransplantation came about due to a shortage of human donors for organ transplants. However, although there has been a great deal of research into the idea of xenotransplantation, the procedure is not without its risks and problems, although these issues are slowly being minimised as time progresses and techniques improve. However, due to the bioethics controversy surrounding the sacrificial use of animals in human medicine, xenotransplantation is not yet in widespread use.

What are the cons of xenotransplantation?

1.    Using animal organs can help to solve the growing problem caused by a worldwide shortage of human donors for organ transplant procedures.

At the moment, there is a long list of very sick people worldwide who are desperate for a donor organ to become available, and without a suitable donor, a large number of these people with die as a result of their illness.
2.    Using animal tissue can act as a temporary fix and keep the patient alive until a suitable human donor organ becomes available.
3.    Use of animal organs and tissues means one human being does not have to die to save another.
4.    Animals do not have to give their consent for a xenotransplantation procedure to take place, which means the number of available organs is potentially limitless.

What are the cons of xenotransplantation?

1.    Pigs are the most common donor animal in xenotransplantation surgery, but because pigs have a much shorter lifespan than humans, it follows that their organs will deteriorate fairly quickly and the human will become dangerously ill once again.
2.    There is a high risk of rejection due to the body’s immune response reacting to the foreign animal tissue—animal cells have genetic markers, which enables our immune system to quickly identify and kill them.
3.    Transplanting animal tissue into humans could lead to the transmission of animal diseases into humans. Research has already indicated that a pig retrovirus called Porcine Enogenous Retrovirus is able to infect human cells and the worst case scenario is that humans become the victims of an animal disease epidemic for which we have no immunity or cure.
4.    Animals have to be sacrificed in order to provide tissue and organs for human transplant operations, which many believe is morally unacceptable.
5.    Many critics of xenotransplantation believe that biotech companies are more interested in making money from their research into the cloning of animal cells suitable for human transplantation than actually helping sick people.



2 Responses to “What are the Pros and Cons of Xenotransplantation?”

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  1. chris Vega says:

    what are the chances of dieses spreading? could it affect a huge population like for example couse an epidemic?

    • Elizabeth Turnbull says:

      The chances of a diseases spreading is somewhat high. Animals can have diseases that tend to stay dormant in the human body until a certain amount of time.

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