The New York Post has an interesting article about “How pigs will save thousands of human lives through organ transplants.” It adds more depth and detail to a topic we discussed earlier. Here’s an excerpt:
Dr. Robert Montgomery made history last September when he became the first surgeon to successfully transplant a pig kidney into a living person…On Jan. 7, David Bennett, a 57-year-old man with end-stage heart disease, received a genetically modified pig heart at the University of Maryland Medical Center…..
In the US alone, there are over 106,000 people on the transplant waiting list, and around 17 die every day without getting a desperately needed kidney, heart or lung, according to the American Transplant Foundation. Human organ donors are on the rise — 12,588 in 2020, up by almost a thousand from the previous year — but it’s not nearly enough to meet the demand. In many cases, the best hope for a transplant is somebody else’s tragedy. For a patient to live, somebody else must die….But that may [soon] change….
The pig organs used in both surgeries came from Revivicor, a Virginia-based biotechnology firm that’s been working to produce genetically modified pigs since 2003. (They’re a spin-off from another company, PPL Therapeutics, that cloned Dolly the sheep in the ‘90s.)
And they’re far from alone. The biotech eGenesis, another startup looking to harvest pig organs for transplants, raised $100 million in 2019 to clinically test their xenotransplant organs. (The company’s staff wears t-shirts bearing the company slogan “This pig might save your bacon.”)
Even Smithfield Foods, which packages and sells pork products like bacon, hot dogs, and sausages, opened a bioscience branch in 2017…to start raising hogs specifically for organ transplants….
“Pig organs are anatomically similar to human organs,” says Michael K. Gusmano, a professor of health policy at Lehigh University. Humans and pigs also share 98 percent of the same genes…..the cost of a heart transplant in the US is around $1.66 million, according to the most recent estimates, while pig transplants….are a comparative steal at just $500,000.
Another way to make more organ transplants available would be to pay people to donate a kidney, or to give people incentives to become organ donors upon their death (such as listing themselves as future organ donors on their driver’s licenses). Lifting the ban on kidney sales could save as many as 30,000 lives annually.