What? Organ transplantation?!

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.

Cyberpunk 2077 4K Wallpaper, Geralt of Rivia, The Witcher, Graphics CGI,  #1583

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.

1960s dog brain transplant was not followed by human studies | Science News

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.

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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.

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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?

5 comments

  1. lourdessanfeliu · ·

    I think this type of transplants will happen. Given the shortage of human donor organs this could have a huge impact in the supply of organs. Every year around 40-43K people with kidney failure die prematurely while waiting for a transplant. I can definitely see this as a solution to help with the organ shortages.

  2. sayoyamusa · ·

    Great post, Chuyong! My first impression on these topics would be “creepy…!” but on second thought, I couldn’t say such a word easily. These experimental transplantations are definitely contributing to the progress of medical technology that have been/will be saving many precious lives. A couple of weeks ago, I tweeted about “human-monkey chimeric embryos,” which seems quite controversial. Again, I couldn’t make any quick and easy comments, but these difficult topics remind me of the ethical responsibility of advanced technology. https://twitter.com/sayoyamUSA/status/1382900979734089730

  3. courtneymba · ·

    Great post! I learned so much here. I’m going with “cool” (over creepy) on this one. I agree with Lourdes about a need to look for non-human donors as so many individuals die waiting for transplants. It is wild that pigs could be the solve, but if those organs are saving or extending lives then I’m all for it!

  4. Longbg · ·

    Great post Chuyong! Transplantation although highly controversial is such a fascinating field. I think in the cases where both parties to the donation have consented then it’s appropriate to do something like a head transplant. I think what would have to evolve more are the legalities around the last will and testament of the individual. As science advances, people will have to ponder whether they want to continue their life with a different set of genetic circumstances or whether that first iteration of life is their wish. So much of life and your experience is shaped by your physical circumstances that I think that there would need to be safeguards around how this practice would continue. As for what Courtney had posited, I believe there is a more ethical approach to using animal organs instead of human organs to relieve the wait times of things like liver/heart/kidney issues.

  5. Andrae Allen · ·

    It was a joy to read this post. Your Cyber Punk 2077 reference was a homerun. As I read through your post I began to wonder how would someone practicing a vegan diet feel about having parts of an animal placed inside of them that could help prolong their life…

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