Pig hearts can function for months in baboons, study shows, bringing us closer to their use in humans

(CNN) A new paper details how genetically modified pig hearts transplanted into baboons could support life and function for up to 195 days.

The finding, published in the journal Nature on Wednesday, takes scientists a small step closer to the possibility of using donor animal organs for human patients in need of a heart transplant.

“Consistent life-supporting function of xenografted hearts for up to 195 days is a milestone on the way to clinical cardiac xenotransplantation,” the researchers wrote.

The new study included only animals, and much more research needs to be done before the approach of using genetically modified pig hearts for human organ transplants could be explored.

The researchers separated the baboons into three groups and performed the heart transplantation procedure in each group using various approaches.

All four baboons in the second group showed better heart function than those in the first group, and they survived for up to 40 days.

“Speculatively, I could imagine a first-in-human trial being a bridge to transplantation, in a patient whose heart is acutely failing and no donor organ is available.

Yet the study has shown that by using a new drug regimen and a new way of preserving the donor pig heart, “pig hearts survived for more than six months after transplantation into non-human primates (another version of xenotransplantation),” he said in part.

“This new research can thus help both to bring organ xenotransplantation a step closer to human application, and to improve organ preservation techniques for human heart transplantation.”

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