Speaking at the BA Festival of Science in Dublin, Dr. AnthonyWarrens will discuss how xenotransplantation, the process oftransplanting organs from one species into another, could soon be areality, easing the current shortage of organs for transplantation.
Dr. Warrens, from Imperial College London and HammersmithHospital, says: "Although the idea of xenotransplantation is far fromnew, it is only in recent years that many of the potentialimmunological problems, such as transplant rejection, have been solved,meaning the process of transplanting organs from one species intoanother, could soon be a reality."
"With the increasing shortage of donors for organ transplants, theuse of animal organs may be the only hope for many suffering fromproblems such as kidney, heart or lung failure."
Despite the progress made in this field there are still a number ofproblems associated with transplanting animal organs into humans. Thedangers of animal viruses crossing over and infecting humans are stilla cause for concern, as researchers have been unable to create ananimal model to test the likelihood and extent of any cross over.
In addition, unknown animal pathogens could prove a potentialproblem. While scientists can create treatment and transplant rejectionprevention strategies for known human pathogens, they are unable to doso for animal pathogens, whose effects on humans may not be fully known.
Dr Warrens adds: "Despite the risks, xenotransplantation may be thebest hope we have for dealing with the current transplant shortage.Currently there are around 6000 on the kidney transplant waiting list,whose condition will only get worse without a transplant. Although wecant say there is absolutely no danger of cross infection, I believethat in the future we will be able to deal with many of the problems,reducing any potential risk."
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