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Assessment #4

Research Assessment: Xenotransplantation

Name: Hebah Tanveer

Date: 17 October 2018

Subject: Independent Study and Mentorship

MLA Citation:

Claxon-McKinney, Barbara. "Xenograft Technology: A New Frontier in Medicine." ​Pediatric

Nursing​, Sept. 2000, p. 511. ​Health & Wellness Resource Center​,

http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A66668168/HWRC?u=j043905002&sid=HWRC&

xid=b4f3516f. Accessed 17 Oct. 2018.

Section 1: Introduction

Xen·o·trans·plan·ta·tion, ​noun: the process of grafting or transplanting organs or tissues

between members of different species. In simpler terms, xenotransplantation means using animal

body parts (including cells, tissues, and organs) in the human body. It’s no secret that the

demand for human donors will forever remain unsatisfied by the supply; the world may never

have enough human donors. As the field of biotechnology looks for viable alternates,

xenografting is a concept that comes up. So far, the practice isn’t widespread because of

biocompatibility issues, but recent breakthroughs in biotechnology are eliminating rejectible

factors of animal tissue. We may soon live in a world where men and women walk with pig

hearts beating in their chests.


Section 2: My Reaction

In my last two research assessments, I have focused on the concept of scarcity in the

biomedical world: not enough organs and not enough blood. These assessments highlighted the

development of biotechnologies to directly replace the aforementioned body tissues. However,

this assessment highlights the use of biotechnology to improve the functionality of already

existing (animal) body tissues. I think that working with what already exists is a better option for

organ and tissue transplantation than creating something from scratch, simply because the phase

of trial-and-error is eliminated. The structure already works in a living creature; how can it work

in humans, too? This is where biotechnology comes into play. Gene engineering and chemical

manipulation techniques that dissolve rejection factors of the animal tissue have been developed.

As biocompatibility continues to increase, it is safe to say that we could be a few years away

from global xenotransplantation!

Section 3: My Reflections

Xenografts are most commonly taken from pigs, cows, and primates. These animal tissue

donations can be used for skin and bone grafts, cardiovascular and dental implants, and blood

products. In addition to biomaterials, xenografts can be used in the following scenarios: restoring

organ function, reducing number of chronic seizures, and treating diseases such as Parkinson’s

and Huntington’s. I find it absolutely fascinating the breadth of applications that a fairly simple

concept can cover. A few trials of xenotransplantation have been attempted with varying levels

of success, but obviously if it was 100% successful, the general public would be more aware of
the topic. Xenotransplantation has come a long way (the concept has been drawing attention

since the early 1900s), but the field still has a long way to go.

Section 4: The Current Situation

The article ​Xenograft Technology: A New Frontier in Medicine was published almost

twenty years ago. The last paragraph of the article is entitled “Future of Xenografting,” and in

this section, the author hypothesizes that by the year 2010, over 500 thousand patients around the

globe will have transplants from pig donors. I decided to look into this fact and discovered that

while there have definitely been a few successful cases here and there, most current sources still

refer to the concept of xenotransplantation as a thing of the future. If biotechnology cannot make

significant progress with animal tissue and organ donation, I think that as long as the elements of

xenografting used to treat certain conditions are explored, the field will continue to blossom.