Can Gene-Editing Make Pig Organ Transplants Viable For Humans?

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The ability to successfully transplant organs is one of the miracles of modern medicine. For most of history, a failure of the kidneys, liver, heart, or some other organ basically meant certain death. With modern organ transplant techniques however, people in need can get a new lease on life. While there may be plenty of surgeons who received training in how to perform these complex surgeries, the real issue is the lack of organs available for those who need them.

Human organs do not grow on trees. They grow inside people. Patients in need of organ transplants rely on living organ donors, or individuals who volunteer to donate their organs in the event of their death. The fact is that most hospitals simply don’t have a large supply of organs just sitting around in anticipation of someone needing a transplant operation. Patients who need new organs have their names added to long lists. For instance, it could be years before someone who needs a new heart is able to find a heart from a compatible donor and get on the operating table. In the United States, there were 116,800 patients on the donor list awaiting surgery in 2016. Of those, only 33,600 were able to receive their organ donations.

But what if there was a way around this problem? A recent article in The New York Times explained how the new science of gene-editing may allow doctors to successfully implant organs from other species into humans, and save more lives. Freaked out yet? Stay with us.

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