Within the next three years, it may be possible to transplant the altered hearts of pigs into patients, according to a recent report that references the surgeon who lead the way for heart transplantation in the United Kingdom.
40 years after the first successful heart transplant in the United Kingdom, Sir Terence English said that his apprentice would aim to substitute a human kidney with a pig kidney.
“If the result of xenotransplantation is satisfactory with porcine kidneys to humans, then it is likely that hearts would be used with good effects in humans within a few years,” said the 87 year old. “If it works with a kidney, it will work with a heart. That will transform the issue.”
A pig’s heart is quite similar to a human’s heart, which is why they are often used as models for finding new treatments. The idea for a successful heart attack treatment was supported several months ago when a genetic therapy displayed high potential in pigs.
An international group of scientists discovered that administering a tiny bit of genetic material known as microRNA-199 into a heart that suffered an attack, resulted in significant cell regeneration.
“A treatment that helps the heart repair itself after a heart attack is the holy grail for cardiologists,” said Ajay Shah, the British Heart Foundation’s chair of cardiology. “This study convincingly demonstrates for the first time that this might actually be feasible and not just a pipe dream.”
Amidst the research, the discovery was published in the science journal, Nature. It says that after a pig suffered a myocardial infarction, scientists delivered the genetic material microRNA-199 and saw “almost complete recovery” of cardiac functionality after only one month.
There are still some obvious challenges that need to be tackled before the genetic therapy can be attempted on human heart attack sufferers. Many of the test pigs died after the treatment as the microRNA-199 was expressed in an uncontrolled manner.