Jul 21, 2019 | Updated: 08:54 AM EDT

Pig Organ: A Solution for Organ Shortage in Surgery

Jun 24, 2019 08:20 AM EDT

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In order to save a person's life, it is sometimes necessary for an organ transplant such as kidney, heart or even brain. However, not all the time that there is always an available organ for a patient. It takes time and patience to have the surgery and at times in worst cases, some patients already died before having the operation. Shortage of organs is one of the problems that every hospital always deal with. In fact, in the United States, there are about 122,500 people that are waiting for an organ transplant.

The eGenesis firm of George Church, a Harvard University geneticist is conducting a study in having pig organs as a solution for the shortage of donated organ in the United States. The study which is being conducted at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston involves transplanting the genetically modified pig organ into monkeys. Dr. James Markman, the hospital chief of transplant surgery, led the experiment.

CRISPR gene-editing or also known as CRISPR-Cas9 is the technique they used for the said study. The technique might be simple but it is considered as an efficient and effective tool for editing an animal's genome. It allows the alteration of DNA sequence and modification of the function of the gene. The cas9 enzyme is the one responsible for cutting the strands of the DNA. Though it is not purely supported by the government, some part of the state has given their support for CRISPR experiment. Applications of it includes correcting of gene defects and preventing the spread of disease, according to The Sun.

Furthermore, different studies have also conducted the same experiment in the past (using primate in testing pig organs). Actually, scientists from the National Institute of Health had successfully placed a pig's heart inside baboon along with its heart and keep them beating for two years. While, in Germany, baboons survived for half a year after replacing their heart with that of a pig.

The eGenesis firm had announced in 2015 to raise their funds to more than $38 million to continue and advance the research project. Church also said to revive the xenotransplantation (a process of transplanting an organ from one species to another) even though it is not yet tested for humans.

"Basically, the whole field has been in the doldrums for 15 years," Church stated. "There's been kind of few true believers that had it on life support. But I think this changes the game completely."

As of now, further research should be conducted before a pig's organs can be a suitable replacement and solution for the organ shortage.

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