Table of Contents
We live in an innovative generation; a generation that is working on research to see to it that lives are saved. In line with this, there are a number of medical innovations and researches on course to serve this very function. However, some of the research and innovations appear to be ethically inappropriate or disadvantageous, a case that questions their validity. With these innovations and researches, the battle between the cons and pros is at stake hence projecting the adoption of the innovation to debate. One major debate, in this case, is the one that deals with Xenotransplants. In the view of working on different health complications that humanity faces, some of the measures that are being undertaken sound unethical. With Xenotransplants, the transfer of organs from closely related species sounds a great idea, but the challenges associated with it are gross. The aim of this paper is thus analysis of the benefits and challenges associated with the whole course and making a decision on which way to go.
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Definition and Milestones in Xenotransplants
The xenotransplant technology involves transfer or transplant of organs between different species (Pidruchna, 2013). For instance, if the human heart becomes defective, a heart of a species that is closely related to human is taken and replaced. One critical concern with this whole debate is compatibility of the species. The different species in question need to be closely related to a successful transplant. In this case, the transplanted organs are referred to as grafts. Scientifically, an organ that has been transferred from one species to another is in this case referred to as a xenograft (Vallés & Mendiluce, 2012). However, for a transplant to be termed as a xenotransplant, the different species in question need to be totally different. The species to qualify a xenotransplant need not have the ability to reproduce. For instance, a dog and a pig cannot successfully reproduce hence a transplant, in this case, is termed as a xenotransplant.
To date, there is extensive research that has been done in the area of xenografting throughout the world. Most of the projects are funded by the National Institute of Health in the United States (Vallés & Mendiluce, 2012). In this whole discipline, there are only a few attempts that have been carried out with human beings. Additionally, there is no specific xenograft that has been certified and approved by the FDA. Some of the attempts that have been evident so far include that of “Baby Fae,” a baby that was born with a malformed heart, who survived only for a short period with the heart of a baboon. Also, at the University of Pittsburgh, there were two men who were transplanted with livers from baboons. The patients survived only for a few weeks and later died. Additionally, in 1995, an HIV/AIDS patient was transplanted with the born marrow from a baboon, and it was confirmed that the baboon cells were helping his immune system and he survived for quite a while. Due to the insufficiency of human organs, intensive research is being undertaken to ensure that the technology works.
The Dilemma in Xenotransplants
Medical statistics have it that about ten patients die each day in the United States while on the waiting list awaiting reception of life-saving and vital organ transplants. Due to the insufficiency of human organs for transfer, it turns out, therefore, that these patients face death (Zhang, et al., 2016). The case stands out as the greatest of the motivators towards the course of xenotransplants. Organs from other species would be significant enough in ensuring the lives of these people are saved and that remain productive throughout their course of life. The tissues, cells, and organs of other animals would, therefore, work a lot of benefits in saving the lives of the patients that die in the course of waiting for the organs for the transfer. Using the transplant of a heart of a baboon to facilitate the human existence sounds a great idea.
Through the technology, recent studies show that the transplantation of the cells and tissues of may be therapeutic for certain diseases and disorders. For instance, in the earlier example where there was a transfer of born marrow from a baboon to a human being infected with HIV/AIDS, the cells of the baboon were seen to facilitate healing of the patient (Pidruchna, 2013). Additionally, continual research reveals that other disorders such as neurodegenerative disorders as well as with the case of diabetes. The use of xenografts, thus, facilitates easier handling of some diseases and disorders in the human body. The case proves to be advantageous for the technology and escalates the need for the xenografts.
However, beyond the potential benefits that relate to the use of the technology, there are always raised eyebrows with regards to the technology. In this regards, medics projects that there is a potential infection of the recipients of the organs with either recognized and unrecognized infections or infection agents (Zhang, et al., 2016). With this concern at stake, the threat for the transmission of infectious diseases to the recipients is always at stake, a case that may prove to be a great threat to the welfare of humanity. Some of the infections may be contagious and consequently spread easily, hence a great challenge posted with regards to the entire technology. The threat to the existence and spread of some contagious diseases viewed side by side with the benefits posted by the technology thus posit a dilemma on the adoption of the technology.
The Challenge of Xenotransplant
The American Society of Transplant Physicians (ASTP), as well as the American Society of Transplant Surgeons (ASTS) in a joint report, indicated that reject the call for a moratorium with regards to the clinical trials of xenotransplants in the United States (Michel, et al., 2015). Through the report, the associations asserted that the potential infectious risks that are associated with the technology could create a health problem in the public domain. Both societies, thus, advocated for an intensive research and discussion for the public opinions that relate to the matter for effective justification of the whole course. The findings would best feature the majority of the transplant professionals and not just the minority (Michel, et al., 2015). If the findings indicate a reduced risk of infectious diseases for the people, it follows then that adoption of the technology will be facilitated to ensure effective curbing of the challenge of insufficient human organs.
Besides the danger posted with regards to the spread of diseases, another challenge relates to the course and advocacy raised by some bodies such as the veterinary medicine professionals, ethics and public policy and law (Vallés & Mendiluce, 2012). Through the ethical considerations, animals have their rights, and the animal activists are not in support of the technology. Reasoning ethically, the animal activists posit that it is not ethical to sacrifice the life of an animal for the sake of the life of a human being, with no surety that the technology will work. Eventually, two lives will have been lost in the long run without an apparent benefit derived thereof (Vallés & Mendiluce, 2012). The activists, therefore, propose for another alternative rather than settling for xenografts as a remedy for the challenges that come with insufficient organs for human transplants and surgery.
In line with the whole debate on the use of the technology, medical professionals and ethical activists propose that transplants are not the only means of treatment. There are other means such as those that involve intensive drug treatment such as those for vasodilators and diuretics (Michel, et al., 2015). Rather than treating the cases as urgent, other alternatives would be schemed out to best fit in the entire course of activities aimed at restoration of human health. Additionally, there can be the case of exploring lifestyle changes such featuring vegetables in the diet, exercising and undertaking psychological treatments. The practices highlighted above effectively work on reversing advanced coronary heart diseases, diabetes mellitus as well as the Parkinson’s disease (Pidruchna, 2013). The case, thus, facilitates the built up and advocacy for preventive medicine. It stands out that there are alternatives to the course xenotransplants than straight involvement in the entire course.
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The debate for the uptake of xenotransplants technology appears to be a hot one, with regards to the pros and cons associated with technology. The struggle for survival of humanity embraces all means whatsoever as long as the pain and damage to people is reduced. In the course of this whole case, it follows then that there are pros and cons relating to the whole deal of xenotransplants. Using organs and tissues from other species of animals to meet a specific need as far as human damages are concerned sounds to be a great idea since there is an insufficient supply of organs for transplants in hospitals. The technology also appears cheap. However, there are two main ethical challenges that relate to the entire technology. In this case, the concerns of the introduction of viruses into the human race as well as that of the rights of animal greatly count in this case. Further, there are other alternatives to the whole case. The urgency and success stories xenotransplants in the past, however, stand unopposed with regards to the entire case of actions in this regards. Whether to adopt the technology or not, thus remains to be hotly debatable in the case of xenotransplants.
- Michel, S. G., Madariaga, M. L. L., Villani, V., & Shanmugarajah, K. (2015). Current progress in xenotransplantation and organ bioengineering. International Journal of Surgery, 13, 239-244
- Pidruchna, S. R. (2013). Dynamics of changes of the endogenous intoxication indices in the animals, suffering severe and combined trauma, after correction, using xenotransplants. Klinichna khirurhiia/Ministerstvo okhorony zdorov’ia Ukrainy, Naukove tovarystvo khirurhiv Ukrainy, (2), 71-74
- Vallés, C. C., & Mendiluce, R. M. (2012). Transgenic organs and xenotransplants. In Stem Cell Transplantation (pp. 73-88). Springer US
- Zhang, B., Shimada, Y., Hirota, T., Ariyoshi, M., Kuroyanagi, J., Nishimura, Y., & Tanaka, T. (2016). Novel immunologic tolerance of human cancer cell xenotransplants in zebrafish. Translational Research, 170, 89-98