Will a pig's organs replace human organ donation and ease the transplant wait list?
BALTIMORE (WBFF) -- From a seventh floor office at the Johns Hopkins Hospital medical campus in East Baltimore, organ transplant surgeon Dr. Andrew Cameron reflects on his day so far.
“This morning we had a 5-year-old child in the operating room for a liver transplant. We do 120 liver transplants a year at Johns Hopkins. 250 kidneys. That seems like a lot, but there are 100,000 Americans on the transplant wait list.”
But he explains there is a glimpse of hope on the horizon.
“I think there will be clinical trials in the United States in which pig kidneys are used for patients on the transplant wait list."
The medical procedure is called zeno-transplantation. It is where animal organs are used in the human body. Doctors explain that the size of the pig and the easy reproduction of the animal make it a perfect candidate.
Cameron said research is still underway, explaining, "We are doing animal experiments now, it’s still experimental."
Across the country, a medical research company called Miromatrix says it may be able to provide a major medical breakthrough in this field as early as 2019. Miromatrix’s Robert Cohen explained progress has already been made.
"Different pig parts have been used successfully in the past and the FDA is comfortable with it,” Cohen said.
Miromatrix researchers are using a unique approach to animal organ transplants, and he noted that, "If all goes according to plan, let’s cross our fingers, by the end of 2019, we will be able to put a liver into a human being."
In the meantime, right now there are currently 120,000 people waiting for a life-saving transplant nationwide, and everyone can take action in saving lives by designating themselves as an organ, eye, and tissue donor at www.donatelifemaryland.org.