Even though we are not always aware of it, science is constantly advancing. The development of new drugs, medical methods, the discovery of biologically important compounds in plants, biochemical techniques, and more, is an ongoing process. The latest evidence of the beauty and power of science is the transplantation of a genetically modified pig heart into a human.
A day to remember
Precisely one week ago, on January 7, David Bennet received the most beautiful gift – a new heart. The donated organ originates from a pig that was bred under specific conditions and had its genes modified. In general, the biggest problem with transplantation is a far too strong reaction of the recipient’s immune system to a new organ, which can lead to organ rejection even in highly compatible donor-recipient pairs. A potential solution to this problem, in addition to immunosuppressive therapy that the patient must take, lies in gene modification.
Namely, through inactivation or insertion of new genes, we can have an effect on better organ acceptance. For example, the organ donor (in this case a pig) had ten of its genes modified. Four have been inactivated, including one that would elicit an aggressive immune response and one that would stimulate the pig’s heart to continue growing even though it is now in a whole new body. In addition, six human genes were inserted into the genome also in order to increase the chances of a successful procedure.
Of course, one successful procedure is not enough in order for xenotransplantation (transplantation of animal organs) to become commonplace. The keeping and breeding conditions of animals, modification of their genes, compatibility of donors and recipients as well as the recipient’s state, are only some of the critical parameters that must be monitored. Although David Bennet is currently in good condition, he is still under the watchful eye of numerous doctors.
Pig heart transplantation, in addition to signifying a huge step towards more successful life-saving, is an indicator of the ongoing development, advancement, and improvement of science. If we take into account the possibility of editing the genome, we are opening up a whole range of opportunities, and each day brings us a step closer to another discovery. Is there a more beautiful gift than life, a new chance to wake up, gain new memories and experiences? Small steps to great achievements!
Translated by: Josipa Radeljak