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Strengthening acceptance for xenotransplantation: the case of attraction effect


Address reprints request to Enrico Rubaltelli, DPSS, University of Padova, Via Venezia, 8, 35131 Padova, Italy (E-mail:


Abstract:  Background:  Despite being still at the experimental level, xenotransplantation may become an effective strategy to overcome the scarcity of human organs. However, at the present time there is considerable resistance to this kind of biomedical technology. The aim of the present study was to identify novel strategies to reduce patients’ negative affective reactions towards xenotransplantation helping them to understand the advantages of xenotransplantation in a more analytical fashion and increase their acceptance for this approach.

Methods:  The study was conducted in a group of patients with liver cirrhosis waiting for liver transplantation. They were presented with hypothetical scenarios and asked to choose among either two or three alternative types of donor defined by their species (e.g., livers from humans vs. other species) and availability (low for human donors and high for livers from non-human species).

Results:  Patients were unwilling to accept xenotransplantation if they were presented with livers from humans (chosen by 97.5% of participants) vs. livers from genetically modified pigs (2.5%). On the other hand, a different group of patients was significantly more willing to accept xenotransplantation if they were presented with three different types of donors: respectively, human beings (74.4%), genetically modified pigs (25.6%) and genetically modified dogs. In addition, human livers were judged significantly more attractive than genetically modified livers from pigs, monkeys, dogs, or sheep and pig livers were rated as significantly more attractive than livers from monkeys, dogs, or sheep (for all comparisons P < 0.01).

Conclusions:  These results demonstrate that paradigms from other fields, like decision-making, might help to communicate more effectively the potential of xenotransplantation, modulating patients’ affective reactions and allowing them to understand the potential strengths of this biomedical technology.

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