Why is it in the news?

  • The first recipient of a modified pig kidney transplant passed away approximately two months after the surgery, with his family and the hospital not attributing his death to the transplant.

About Xenotransplantation

  • Xenotransplantation is the process of transplanting, implanting, or infusing live cells, tissues, or organs from non-human animal sources into human recipients.
  • This procedure is undertaken to address the significant gap between the demand for organ transplants and the limited availability of human donor organs.

Pigs are often used for xenotransplantation due to several factors:

  • Pigs are physiologically similar to humans in many aspects, making them suitable candidates for xenotransplantation. Their anatomical and physiological parameters closely resemble those of humans, increasing the likelihood of successful transplantation.
  • Pigs are widely bred in farms, and their organs are readily available. Moreover, the cost of breeding and maintaining pigs is relatively low compared to other animals, making them a cost-effective option for xenotransplantation research and procedures.
  • Pigs can be genetically modified to reduce the risk of organ rejection by the human immune system. Techniques such as CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing are employed to modify pig organs, removing certain genes that produce antigens recognized by the human immune system and adding human genes to improve compatibility.

Despite the potential benefits of xenotransplantation, several complications and challenges need to be addressed:

  • One of the primary challenges is the risk of immune rejection, where the recipient’s immune system recognizes the transplanted organ as foreign and mounts an immune response to reject it. Immunosuppressive drugs are often used to prevent rejection, but they can increase the risk of infections and other complications.
  • Xenotransplantation carries the risk of transmitting infectious agents from animals to humans. Both known and unknown infectious agents present in the animal organs may infect the recipient and potentially spread to close contacts and the general population.
  • There is concern about the possibility of cross-species transmission of retroviruses, which may be latent in animal organs and could lead to diseases years after transplantation. These retroviruses pose a public health risk and need to be thoroughly addressed through screening and monitoring protocols.


  • Ensuring the long-term viability and function of transplanted organs is crucial for the success of xenotransplantation.
  • Continuous monitoring of recipients and research into improving genetic modifications and immune tolerance are essential to overcome this challenge.

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