Xenotransplantation, Xenogeneic Infections, Biotechnology, and Public Health


  • Louisa E. Chapman MD, MSPH

    Corresponding author
    1. Office of Critical Information Integration and Exchange, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA
    • Office of Critical Information Integration and Exchange Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Atlanta, GA
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Xenotransplantation is the attempt to use living biological material from nonhuman animal species in humans for therapeutic purposes. Clinical trials and preclinical studies have suggested that living cells and tissue from other species have the potential to be used in humans to ameliorate disease. However, the potential for successful xenotransplantation to cure human disease is coupled with the risk that therapeutic use of living nonhuman cells in humans may also serve to introduce xenogeneic infections of unpredictable significance. Animal husbandry practices and xenotransplantation product preparation may eliminate most exogenous infectious agents prior to transplantation. However, endogenous retroviruses are present in the genomes of all mammalian cells, have an inadequately defined ability to infect human cells, and have generated public health concern. The history of xenotransplantation, the implications for public health, the global consensus on public safeguards necessary to accompany clinical trials, and the future direction of xenotransplantation are discussed in the context of public health. Mt Sinai J Med 76:435–441, 2009. © 2009 Mount Sinai School of Medicine