Pig heart kept beating in baboon for over two years

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Scientists say they have kept a pig heart alive in a baboon for more than two years.

The result could boost hopes for the successful transplantation of animal organs into people, amid a shortage of human donors.

Cross-species transplants provoke a powerful immune reaction, leading to rejection of the organ by the host.

But a US-German team used a combination of gene modification and immune-suppressing drugs.

Their work is described in the journal Nature Communications.

“It is very significant because it brings us one step closer to using these organs in humans,” co-author Muhammad Mohiuddin, from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute in Maryland, told the AFP news agency.

“Xenotransplants – organ transplants between different species – could potentially save thousands of lives each year that are lost due to a shortage of human organs for transplantation.”

Dr Mohiuddin and colleagues used a previously established line of donor pigs with three genetic modifications that allowed for a degree of immune tolerance in recipient baboons.

A combination of antibodies and drugs were then used to help prevent rejection of pig hearts transplanted into five baboons.

Record time

The hearts did not replace those of the monkeys, but were connected to the circulatory system via two large blood vessels in the baboon abdomen.

 

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