Daryl Ilbury

Posts Tagged ‘xenotransplantation’

Against xenotransplantation? One question for you…

In Eish!, Science on October 22, 2011 at 12:31 pm

Good enough to eat, but not good enough to harvest? Image: iStockphoto

Xenotransplantation raises a lot of eyebrows, especially because most people have no idea what it is. But then when I tell them, they invariable reject the very notion; and there’s a word for that: ironic.

Xenotransplantation is essentially the transplanting of animal tissue into humans, and for many people this is anathematic. They find the concept of having, say, a pig’s windpipe replacing a diseased human windpipe quite revolting. This is interesting because the same people may find the same pig’s flesh delicious for breakfast.

So why are scientists experimenting with animal tissue? I first wrote about this back in 2006 when researching a piece on organ transplant for The Saturday Star; and I found a shocking degree of resistance towards the idea of xenotransplantation. This was generally rooted in ignorance and a fair degree of religious steadfastness.

Given my familiarity with that area where science and religion collide, this is understandable (although more than a little frustrating); but what really upsets me can be exemplified by the reaction of one of my interviewees who displayed outrage at the concept of xenotransplantation. When he asked why scientists were doing this, I asked him if he was a registered organ donor. He said, “No”, and I replied, “well that’s why”.

If those people who are against research into xenotransplantation feel so passionate in their moral objection, perhaps they should do the morally courageous thing to do and register to become an organ donor. And if they don’t want to do that, then they should just shut up.

Thank heavens science isn’t swayed by such moral hypocrites; and research into xenotransplantation continues. The biggest challenge, as it is for any organ transplantation, is rejection; and so the recent announcement that clinical pig-islet xenotransplantation¬†– or transplantation of pig cells – is on the cards comes no doubt as a welcome relief for people suffering from diabetes and other diseases.