10th January 2011
Scientists have made a medical breakthrough which could pave the way for pig lungs to be transplanted into humans. Researchers in Australia have managed to keep the animals’ organs alive using human blood. Now experts believe animal-to-human transplants could be carried out within five years.
The breakthrough came after scientists at Melbourne’s St Vincent’s Hospital were able to remove a section of pig DNA which had made pig organs incompatible with human blood.
Professor Tony D’Apice, who has been breeding pigs for possible transplants since 1989, said human DNA was added to the engineered animals to control blood clotting and transplant rejections in humans.
Scientists at the AlfredHospital hooked up a set of pigs lungs to a machine which mimicked the human circulation system. The machine used a ventilator to make the lungs breathe while a pump acting as the heart allowed blood to flow through the lungs.
Dr Keith Prowse of the British Lung Foundation said: "There are currently 255 people in the UK registered for a lung transplant yet less than half of this number received a lung transplant last year.
"If this research can lead to more lungs being available for transplant operations, it will be a very welcome development to anyone affected by lung conditions such as cystic fibrosis and even in some cases chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.”
Full results from the research are being kept a closely-guarded secret until a meeting of transplant experts in VancouverCanada, in August.
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