UK & World News

  • 18 May 2014, 10:41

Pig Hearts For Humans 'A Step Closer'

Doctors have made a breakthrough in research that could lead to animal organs being transplanted into humans within the next 20 years, according to a leading British scientist.

Experiments in America have proved a pig's heart can be kept alive inside another animal for more than a year using a combination of genetic modification and new drugs.

In controversial research at the US national medical research agency NIH, a team led by Dr Muhammad Mohiuddin transplanted the hearts of genetically engineered pigs into the abdomens of baboons and kept one beating for 600 days.

Dr Mohiuddin said his research will "instill a new ray of hope for thousands of patients waiting for human donor organs".

Professor Chris Mason, from the department of biochemical engineering at University College London, called the development a big breakthrough.

"It is very early, it is not in man and it's not even in the position of a heart, but it's a huge step forward," he said.

With around 1,000 patients dying in the UK while waiting for an organ transplant, Professor Mason welcomes the prospect of farming pigs to produce organs on demand.

"We are talking 10, 15 or more years away," he explained.

"This is early proof of the concept that shows that a pig heart can be transplanted into a non-human primate and not be rejected."

Heart attack victim Anne Higgs has been waiting for a heart transplant at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle for four years and says she would have no qualms about accepting a pig's heart.

"It's another grasp at life," she said.

"Yes I would take it, I would run all the way to the Freeman with that little heart."

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