Since this could be my last free topic blog post for our class, I decided to write about organ transplantation and how this medical technology has improved to a surprising level. Really appreciated the freedom on choosing topics! I will try to take all of you to a future cyber punk journey of reshaping human body.
When it comes to organ transplantation, I believe everyone is some what familiar with it, or at least have heard about it from horror movies, for example the 2018 movie <Train>.
The first time I really start to be interesting in organ transplantation is when I was in College learning clinical psychology. Our professor showed a brain transplantation experiments on monkey. This happens in 1970, American scientists Robert J. White transplanted the head of a monkey to another monkey. After the operation, the monkey woke up and took a bite of the experimenter’s hand and was able to drink juice. But because the nerve connection in the cervical spine could not be restored, the monkey was paralyzed from the lower body, and the monkey died a few days later. However, this operation was regarded as the first successful head transplant operation. The National Geographic Channel had a dedicated documentary. I will not put a video here since it could cause some discomforts, but highly recommend.
Well. What about xenotransplantation? Which is the process of grafting or transplanting organs or tissues between members of different species. I believe that many people still think that this technology is a sci-fi technology or even just a fantasy. After all, we only heard about such technology from futuristic predictions, novels and movies. Before diving deep into this topic, my understanding is that it is feasible but it’s still very far away and unmatured. However, this technology is in fact not so far away, and it may even be a technology that will be implemented in the near future.
Heart transplant survives up to 945 days
In 2016, the pig’s genes were modified to make three genetic modifications, namely knocking out the GGAT1 gene (used to eliminate stress rejection during transplantation) and overexpressing hCD46 (used to solve immune problems) , HTBM (thrombomodulin), and then transplanted the genetically modified heart into a baboon.
As a result, the baboon survived for 945 days, which is basically close to 3 years. This is the record of the longest survival time after transplantation from a pig to a primate.
Kidney transplant survives up to 499 days
It’s not just the heart. In 2019, researchers at Emory University also used pigs for xenotransplantation. This time, they used pig kidneys and transplanted on to a Rhesus Macaque. The genes were also modified, GGAT1 gene was knocked out (used to eliminate stress rejection during transplantation), and hCD55 (human immune gene CD55, used to reduce immune rejection) was overexpressed. In addition, an immunosuppressive treatment program was also given to the macaque, such as the combination of αCD4 and antiCD154. As a result, the macaque survived for 499 days.
It is not just ordinary primates, in fact there are human transplants.
For example the transplantation of porcine islets to humans. One of Chinese top hospital has completed a clinical study of porcine islet transplantation in 10 type 1 diabetic patients. Compared with preoperatively, the patient’s overall insulin usage is reduced by more than 60%. The best effect is a 90% reduction. According to the internationally recognized comprehensive score for islet transplantation, the average score is 0.62, and the best score is 0.88. (A complete cure of diabetes will have a score of 1). In addition, xenogeneic organ transplants that have been carried out include pancreatic islets, skin, cornea and many other organs.
Currently, experiments using pigs are the most advanced of all xenogeneic organ transplants, far ahead the study of other species by at least one or two eras. However, it is worth noting that the current organ transplantation in primates can be basically heterotopic transplantation successfully for a long time. In other words, this organ has not really received the original location and replaced the original organ. The true sense of xenogeneic organ transplantation would be to remove the original organ and replace it with a new xenogeneic organ. This is still in progress and might happen in the next 15 years.
Business implication? Human are really going to leave longer! As we have mentioned multiple times about black mirror during class, I can see many science fictions coming true in the future, with machines learn to become human and humans turn ourselves to machines. Leave in the comment about what you think of such a future or about this technology? Like it? Hate it? Feeling creepy?