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Current Affairs

Xenotransplantation technique

Date: 12 March 2022 Tags: Biotechnology


An individual transplanted with a genetically modified pig heart has passed away after two months of the procedure.



The patient was ineligible for human organ transplant and was in a serious condition when he was chosen for the experiment.



  • Patient was suffering from severe arrhythmia, a life-threatening disorder affecting his heartbeats. He could be cured only through transplant.

  • Looking at the seriousness of condition, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted emergency authorization for procedure.


Cross-species transplant

  • The process of transplanting tissues, cell, organs or fluids from another species into a human body is called xenotransplantation.

  • The technique is widely considered as an alternative to human organ transplantation due to shortage of organs.


History of xenotransplantation

  • The first historical evidence was when an American baby was transplanted with Baboon heart to cure a congenital disease in 1984.

  • The baby died after a month of transplant as the heart was rejected by body’s immune system. However, the baby managed to survive longer than any previous experiments.


The recent case

Post the surgery, the patient’s body did not show any signs of rejection. It is not clear if the reason for death was due to rejection of heart by his body.


Selection of pig heart

  • The anatomical and physiological parameters of pigs are similar to that of humans.

  • Pig breeding in farms is widespread and cost-effective.

  • There are good chances of size of pig organs matching with that of human recipients.



  • A genetically modified pig has to be used for harvesting as normal pig genes are incompatible for humans and can result in rejection.

  • The four pig genes are knocked out and six human genes are added. The gene that codes for Alpha-gal is especially removed.

  • This gene can elicit a devastating immune response in humans. The pig should belong to ‘GalSafe’ category.



Xenotransplantation could help provide an alternative supply of organs to those with life-threatening diseases.