MadSci Network: Medicine

Re: Are there any side affects to xenotransplantation?

Date: Tue May 30 08:45:34 2000
Posted By: Doug Reed, Faculty, Toxinology & Aerobiology, USAMRIID
Area of science: Medicine
ID: 958414041.Me

Your question is both an interesting and a timely one. 

The primary side-effect of concern with xenotransplantation is the risk of 
rejection, which is considerably higher than with human organ transplants. 
This is due to a number of reasons, but mostly because of differences in 
the major histocompatibility antigens and blood group antigens. Rejection 
can be controlled by immunosuppressive drugs, but the person would have to 
take these drugs for the rest of their lives - leaving them very 
susceptible to infection much like an AIDS patient.

The second area of concern is the risk of disease. Pigs & baboons, the 
leading 'candidates' for xenotransplants into humans, carry a number of 
diseases that could potentially infect humans. In fact, one pig retrovirus 
has already been shown to have infect a human recipient of a pig organ. 
The danger here is the potential development of another virus like HIV, or 
perhaps even something worse. Those in favor feel that they can 
successfully screen for such viruses, but you can't screen for a virus you 
don't know exists.

Beyond those two issues, however, the question of how an animal organ 
functions in a human body has not been that well examined. Species are 
different genetically, and their responses to stimuli and stress are (as a 
result) very different.

I've included some links below that can provide additional information 
that can answer your question. These are all science links, and provide a 
considerable amount of information both for and against xenotransplants.

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