Health and Medicine

3 cheers for the pig man

By Noah Millan, The Week

It may not always feel like it, but we live in an age of miracles. The most recent: the first successful transplant of a heart from a non-human mammal to a human being.

This was not the first successful xenotransplantation of a working organ. Last year saw the first successful transplant of a genetically-modified pig’s kidney into a human being. But the recipient, in that case, was also a donor, someone who was legally dead and who had offered his organs for donation. Since these proved unusable, his family instead donated his entire body for research purposes to receive the pig kidney to study whether it would be rejected.

Last week’s operation took the prospects for such surgeries a giant step further. David Bennett Sr., a man with life-threatening heart disease, did not qualify for a human heart transplant. So he was offered an experimental operation that gave him a heart from a genetically-altered pig. So far, the operation has been a success, and if that continues to be the case, then it is reasonable to hope for a solution to the ongoing shortage of organs, and a major leap forward for human longevity and health.

You’d think everyone would rejoice at the thought. But I suspect not everyone will.

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