XI'AN, July 1 (Xinhua) -- A Chinese research team announced it has transplanted organs from a gene-edited pig to three monkeys, setting a new record as one of them has been surviving for 18 days now. The experiment indicates that transplants between different species can help solve the problem of human organ shortage.
The trial was conducted by researchers and clinicians at the Xijing Hospital affiliated to Air Force Medical University in Xi'an, northwest China's Shaanxi Province. On June 13, after knocking out 13 of the pig's genes resistant to viral infection and acute rejection, scientists transplanted its liver, heart and kidneys into three monkeys.
According to the hospital, the monkey receiving the heart lived for seven days, and the one that received the kidneys just survived a day.
The monkey who received the pig's liver, however, has been in good health since the operation, breaking the previous survival record of 15 days.
Dou Kefeng, lead researcher and a hepatologist at the hospital, said transplanting animal organs into human bodies is a trend in bio-engineering and pigs are the best possible source due to similarities in size and physiology with human beings. Besides, monkeys share about 94 percent of human DNA, indicating that the trial comes close to animal-human organ transplants.
It is not the first pig-monkey organ transplant carried out by the Chinese hospital. In 2013, a monkey who received the liver of a pig survived 14 days. A year later, a U.S. research team broke the record with a monkey surviving 15 days, Dou told Xinhua.
About 300,000 Chinese patients are waiting for organ transplants, but only 20,000 are lucky every year as a lack of donors limits organ transfers.
Human organ shortage is a worldwide problem. Scientists have long hoped that the issue could be resolved by using suitable animal organs for transplant, a concept called xenotransplantation.
Many research teams at home and abroad have studied transplant of organs including cornea and skin from gene-edited pigs to human beings.
"Xenotransplantation may help increase the availability of organs for thousands of people on waiting lists for lifesaving organ transplants," Dou said. Enditem