Clinical Xenotransplantation: Pigs Might Fly?



Xenotransplantation has the potential to deliver an unlimited supply of organs for transplantation. However, this promise has yet to translate into clinical application, despite substantial research efforts in the last decade. Although increasing numbers of studies are being performed in relevant pre-clinical (pig-to-primate) transplantation models, so far these have highlighted the apparent elusiveness of long-term xenograft survival. Humoral rejection remains the main obstacle to success, but control of T cell-mediated rejection will be a problem in the future and there are major concerns about the possible transmission of porcine endogenous retroviruses (PERV) and other infectious agents. This article reviews recent advances in the understanding of acute vascular rejection (AVR), acute T cell-mediated rejection and PERV transmission and highlights some of the strategies that may prove successful in overcoming these problems. Although progress has been slow, the promise of an inexhaustible supply of organs is sufficient reason to continue research in these areas. Assuming the specific problem of AVR can be ameliorated by one of a number of strategies currently under investigation, there are grounds to believe that xenotransplantation will become a clinical reality. Pig xenografts, currently grounded, might eventually fly!