Ian Alvan, a professor of transplant surgery at LUMC (Leiden), says it’s too soon to release definitive reports. “I honestly think it’s going to happen very quickly. A pig kidney transplant was performed on a brain dead patient last year. It was twice as successful. But I still do not see definitive results.”
“But this transplant is actually one step ahead. It’s not about the brain dead patient now, for example. But before you really talk about a short – term success, you have to be at least a month. And more.”
Large organ defect
A ‘new’ organ is always rejected by transplant surgery, so a person who has had an organ should take medication against rejection for the rest of his life. In the case of an animal organ, rejection is more severe and the risk of complications is higher.
But according to Professor Ebles, this is not entirely a reason to stop transplanting animal organs. Rather. “Now experiments like this are associated with a huge shortage of human organs. That’s why this is happening.”
Not just the future
The surgery in the United States was performed by transplant surgeon Bartley Griffith. He is optimistic about xenotransplantation, an alternative surgery from animals to humans. “Sinotransplantation has always been said to be in the future, but I can now say that it is one of the present.”
David Bennett was too weak to qualify for a human heart, Griffith says. “He told me he didn’t want to die, and I told him that a pig’s heart might be an option.” Bennett later agreed to transplant surgery, saying that if it had gone wrong, at least it would have contributed to scientific progress.
Bennett has regained consciousness and has already spoken to his doctors, the transplant surgeon says. “Now the first critical phase is over. We hope he continues to recover well.” Bennett, 57, still has a long way to go, his doctors say.
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