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Xenotransplantation

Introduction


Xenotransplantation is defined as any procedure that involves the transplantation, implantation, or infusion of either (a) live cells, tissues, or organs from a nonhuman animal source, or (b) human body fluids, cells, tissues, or organs that have had ex vivo contact with live nonhuman animal cells, tissues, or organs into a human recipient. The fact that the demand for human organs for clinical transplantation significantly outnumbers the supply is driving the development of xenotransplantation.


Risks


Although the potential advantages are substantial, the use of xenotransplantation raises worries about the potential infection in recipients with both recognised and unknown infectious pathogens, as well as the probable spread to their close contacts and the wider human population. The possibility of cross-species infection by retroviruses, which may remain latent and cause illness years after infection, is of public health concern. Furthermore, novel infectious pathogens may be difficult to identify using present approaches.





Ethical Concerns


Some believe that there is no logical basis to ethically distinguish animal pain and human pain or suffering. Suffering is suffering wherever and to whoever it is caused. It would be incorrect to place a lower value on animal pain than on human suffering, just as it would be incorrect to place a lower value on one human being's suffering than another.


The ascription of rights, whether to human beings or animals, rests on the principle that the lives of individuals have an inherent value. Such individuals should be treated as ends in themselves rather than merely as means to the happiness or well-being of others.“The use of healthy animals as a source of ‘spare parts for humans represents a fundamental denial of the inherent value of those animals’ lives.”


For example, the Jain Academy wrote that “Jains are against all animal experimentation and use of animal cells, tissues and organs, as it is against all the principles of reverence for life and non-violence.” Where convictions of this kind rest upon metaphysical assumptions that are not widely shared, they cannot easily be made the basis of public policy. People’s considerations must be considered.


Assessing Alternatives


Artificial body parts, ranging from glass eyes to wooden legs, have been adopted for generations and may provide a solution to the lack of organs and tissue for transplantation. Although technological developments and contemporary materials have expanded the range and complexity of artificial implants, there are still significant challenges in duplicating the complex functioning of particular human organs. Artificial implants are now being developed ranging from completely mechanical devices to organs made up of a mix of artificial materials and human cells.


Closing the gap between the demand for transplantation and the availability of donor organs is difficult. Preventive interventions may help to fulfil demand, but they must be long-term and of unknown efficacy. Increasing the supply of organs from human donors is challenging and, in certain situations, fraught with ethical quandaries. While mechanical and bioengineered organ replacements hold promise for the future, they are now troublesome. As a result, interest has shifted to the use of animal organs as one possible technique of meeting the need for transplantation.

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