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While organ transplantation is far from new, the idea of cross-species transplantation is more unique. A transplant surgeon in New York has recently broken new ground, by successfully transplanting a pig’s kidney into a human. However, there are some caveats to the procedure, and it’s a long way from being something that’s going to be commonly done anytime soon. There are also some ethical questions to consider, in order to better understand the viability of this kind of procedure for human beings in the future.
The most important thing to note about this surgery is that, while it was successful, it was also performed on a brain-dead human being with little hope of recovery. The other important issue to be aware of, is that the pig had been genetically modified. This stopped the typical rejection response that the human body would generally produce to a foreign object or organ. Right now, the work hasn’t been published or peer-reviewed, but there are plans to do that in the future.
This is the most advanced experiment of its kind that has ever been conducted, and will likely need more experiments of a similar kind in the future. With that in mind, however, there are also those who are uncomfortable with this particular type of experimentation, even on humans who theoretically will not recover or survive without artificial methods. There are also ethical questions to be raised about the genetic modification of animals, especially for human gain.
Whether serious ethical considerations will come into play with this type of procedure remains to be seen, as does the overall viability for humans who are not on life support or who would generally go on to live normal lives after the procedure. The publication of this work in the future may add more insight.
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