(Discover Magazine) Although 54 percent of adults in the United States have registered as organ donors, just one in three people die in a way that allows for organ donation. That leaves more than 100,000 people in the United States waiting for a transplant. Many will die waiting.
Because demand for organs outpaces supply and probably always will, researchers have looked to xenotransplantation — placing animal organs into human bodies — as an alternative. However, getting to the point where xenotransplantation is safe enough for trials in humans has been a challenge because so many complications can occur. Now, a breakthrough by a group of researchers brings us one step closer to a day when organ shortages are a thing of the past.
A research team led by Bruno Reichart at the University of Munich in Germany has developed a technique allowing baboons to survive significantly longer than ever before with transplanted pig hearts. Figuring out how to safely xenotransplant hearts is an important area of study because of skyrocketing rates of heart problems, the researchers said.