Xenotransplantation – What do YOU think?
Here it is, the final issue. Over the past 6 weeks, we have looked at every aspect of xenotransplantation from the involvement of animals to the health risks on humans. What do you think of the matter? Xenotransplantation may eventually provide a solution to the worldwide shortage of human organs for transplantation. Xenotransplantation is surrounded by profound ethical issues, both for the potential recipients and for the society as a whole. My opinion? There are far too many risks for it to be a viable option, way too many disadvantages for it to possibly have a positive effect, plus it would halt natural selection which in itself would be a negative for the future of our species.
Surveys on general public
Concurrent with increased scientific interest, there has been an increasing number of quantitative public opinion surveys conducted about xenotransplantation in the last decade. Over time, the proportions of acceptance seemed unchanged. The proportion of those who did not accept decreased and the remaining proportion increased. This pattern was evident in Europe and the US, but not in Japan. Gender and education were found to be associated with opinions to xenotransplantation. The influence of religion was not as straightforward. This may partly depend on how religiosity was measured in the polls. If a xenotransplant was the ”only choice” proportions of acceptance increased, and if a ”risk of diseases” was stated proportions of acceptance decreased.
Future of xenotransplantation
At this stage, cell-based xenotransplants offer the most promise as treatments for disease, mainly because cells can easily be protected by the recipient’s immune system. In fact, pig transplants for treating diabetes could be available within the next 10 years. Organs are more difficult to protect from the immune system, and researchers are investigating whether genetically modified donor animals or new immunosuppressive regimes may make these organ xenotransplants possible.
Pig cell transplants in New Zealand
One of the most promising pig cell transplant techniques uses microencapsulation to protect the cells from the immune system. In New Zealand, Living Cell Technologies (LCT) is pioneering this technology. LCT protects pig cells from the recipient’s immune system with a special seaweed-based coating. This technology may be used to treat diseases such as diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, Huntingdon’s disease, and hearing loss.
Let us know what YOU think!
After reading this, where do you stand on xenotransplantation? Do the benefits outweigh the cons? Is there even a real financial benefit? How should we balance animal welfare and human well-being? Can we really distinguish animal welfare from animal rights? Who should regulate xenotransplantation globally? Are there enough technological advancements being made to ensure the safety of the technology? Is the potential risk of causing a worldwide epidemic worth the possibility saving the lives of patients in need? What do you think?