(RightWing.org) – In what could be a huge breakthrough for people who need new organs, scientists have attached a pig liver to a human body. The liver successfully filtered blood for three days, raising hopes that pig organs can replace human ones. Although gruesome in many ways, this is a big step forward for medical science.
On January 18, the University of Pennsylvania announced that its Perelman School of Medicine had successfully connected the liver of a genetically modified pig to a human body. The recipient was a brain-dead patient whose body had been donated to medical science, so there would have been no consequences if the experiment failed. Scientists then connected the liver to the body’s internal organs using synthetic veins; they left the body’s own liver in place and kept the pig one outside, rather than trying to surgically implant it, which wasn’t necessary for this experiment.
The goal of the experiment was to see if the pig liver could carry out the function of the original one by removing toxins from the blood. The researchers studied the connected liver for three days; at the end of that time the liver showed no signs of inflammation, while the body’s vital signs remained “very stable.” Based on that, it looks like the replacement liver was managing to do its job and keep the body alive.
Every year more than 330,000 Americans suffer from liver failure, and there’s always a shortage of suitable organ donors. Unlike hearts or kidneys, there’s no medical machinery that can do the liver’s job. People with kidney failure can have regular dialysis to do the job of their malfunctioning organs, but without a transplant, acute liver failure has an 85% fatality rate. If a pig liver can be successfully transplanted, the reliance on human donors won’t be a roadblock to transplants anymore and tens of thousands of lives could be saved.
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