- What do you believe about xenotransplantation
What do you believe about xenotransplantation
The development of the technique of organ transplantation was
one of the major medical advances of the twentieth century.
Allotransplantation is now a highly successfully way of treating
patients for a wide variety of life-threatening medical conditions,
but crucially is dependent on an adequate supply of cadaveric human
organs. Because of the enormous success of organ transplantation,
the ever-increasing demand for human organs means that there are
simply not enough to go around. This means that there are currently
long waiting lists for urgent medical procedures.
One solution to the problem of organ shortages is
xenotransplantation. Xenotransplantation can be defined as the
transplantation of animal cells, tissues or organs into human
recipients for therapeutic purposes (Melo et al., 2001). The
purpose of this essay is to thoroughly evaluate this technique. I
will begin by describing how xenotransplantation can be carried
out, and discuss the evidence to suggest that such a procedure
might be technically feasible in the near future. I will then
consider the various advantages and disadvantages of the technique,
before concluding the review with my personal opinions on the
merits of xenotransplantation.
Although I believe xenotransplantation is feasible on scientific
grounds, I have serious doubts about the potential for the
technique to be successful given the numerous ethical issues that
are associated with it. Unless the procedure is extremely
successful in the clinic, I doubt whether the idea of living with
an animal organ will ever be socially acceptable. For others the
procedure will be unacceptable on religious grounds, while others
will not tolerate the breeding of animals purely for their organs.
I suspect the reaction of the media to the technique may be
critical in determining how successful it could be. The recent
debacle over the introduction of genetically-modified foods in the
UK is one example of a promising scientific development hijacked by
sceptical media coverage misinforming the general public; despite
positive public opinion at present (Rios et al., 2004), a similar
media reaction to the first trials of xenotransplantation would
again be disastrous.
Overall, I would strongly encourage further research into the
possibility of xenotransplantation with the hope of initiating
clinical trials in the coming years. Although the technique does
hold considerable promise to overcome the shortage of cadaveric
organs, I am doubtful that xenotransplantation will ever be able to
realise its medical potential due to the many ethical issues raised
by its implementation.