"Positive and Negative Aspects of Xenotransplantation" is a delightful example of a paper on transplantation and donation. This paper aims to take a closer look at the positive and negative aspects of xenotransplantation, that is, the process of transplanting animal cells, tissues, or organs into a human’ s body in order to treat certain ailments. In order to maintain succinctness in our discussion, this paper will be divided into four parts. The first part will provide a brief overview of xenotransplantation by examining its components, processes, and guidelines. The second part will zero in on the positive aspects of xenotransplantation by banking on some of the breakthroughs that have been introduced in the field of medicine and research.
The third part will highlight its negative aspects by concentrating on both ethical implications and medical risks. The last part will conclude the discussion by synthesizing the essential lessons gleaned and coming up with a convincing resolution for the topic. Xenotransplantation: An Overview As stated earlier, xenotransplantation is the process of extracting and transplanting animal cells, tissues, and organs into a human’ s body (Billman 2). Such medical procedure emerged as a response to the increasing demand for cells, tissue, and organ transplants, and the decreasing number of human donors (Levy 1).
In addition to this, economic pressures and advancements in genetic technology have reinforced the possibility of using animals as donors of needed cells, tissues, and organs. With regard to the processes involved in xenotransplantation, they are commonly divided into three. The first type is animal cell therapy, as in the case of obtaining insulin-producing cells from a pig and transferring them to a patient with diabetes.
Another type is called animal external therapy which involves the use of an external device to extract and transplant cells, tissues, or organs into a stabilized patient. Such practice is often conducted while waiting for a human donor. The last type is animal organ transplant which entails the total replacement of the dysfunctional human organ. In order to ensure the success of xenotransplantation, certain guidelines and standards are followed by medical practitioners. For one, the patient needing xenotransplantation should be well-oriented not only on the specific procedures involved in this medical endeavor (especially the would-be host of the cells, tissues, and organs) but also on some infection risks that the transplantation may yield.
During and after the transplantation, strict monitoring of bodily reactions and proper follow-through of medicines must be timely conducted. In addition to this, the rights of the host animal should also be taken into careful consideration. As highlighted in an article entitled Animal-to-Human Organ Transplants – a Solution or a New Problem, some of the commonly used animals for xenotransplantation include pigs, goats, sheep, and macaque (Daar 55). Their rights are said to be protected by: (1) ensuring proper housing and husbandry; (2) providing well-managed transport arrangements; and (3) use of painkillers and anesthetics during the actual procedure. In addition to this, the genetic modification of animals must also be carried out with utmost care— genetic modification usually done through inserting some human genes into the animals to make them ‘ human’ and fit for xenotransplantation. Positive Aspects of Xenotransplantation Although xenotransplantation is still in the process of development, its proponents believe that it can become a strong alternative to allotransplantation (that is, the use of human cells, tissues, and organs to treat human diseases). In this regard, medical researchers of xenotransplantation remain optimistic that animal cell therapies (such as brain or pancreatic islet cells) or animal external therapies (such as devices using animal liver cells or skin grafts) will one day become flawless in execution as they cause less immune rejection and present fewer structural and functional problems (National Health and Medical Research Council 6).
In this light, “ Successful xenotransplantation of genetically modified organs and tissue would also eliminate the need for the careful matching of the organ or tissue with the recipient, required in transplants between human beings in order to reduce rejection by the immune system” (Nuffield Council on Bioethics 7). Most importantly, xenotransplantation can provide some long-term medical solutions to known ailments such as AIDS, Parkinson’ s disease, and diabetes.
Through animal cell therapies, natural antibodies are assumed to be created in the patient’ s system, as primarily assisted by medicines targeted to stabilize the immune system. In the scholarly paper entitled Animal-to-Human Transplantation Research, it is posited that animal cell therapies have proven to be effective in providing immediate solution to liver malfunctions (National Health and Medical Research Council 17).
Animal cell therapies, on the other hand, have shown the potential of curing diseases like type 1 diabetes, Parkinson’ s disease, and Huntington's disease. Negative Aspects of Xenotransplantation Xenotransplantation is generally opposed by its critics due to two main reasons: firstly, its ethical soundness is put into question especially when the dignity of the human being is infused into the discussion; and secondly, the readiness of the industry in conducting xenotransplantation, specifically, animal organ transplants is doubted given the number of failures on kidney, heart, and liver transplants as extracted from pigs. As for the first major point, it is believed that xenotransplantation raises very serious ethical issues— specifically, the respect for the integrity of humans and the moral implications of genetically modifying animals for the benefit of humans. In this light, while people’ s moral stands on the issue vary depending on their cultural and religious backgrounds, their personal or family members’ medical conditions, their understanding of the technologies used, and their views on the right of humans to kill animals for human use, it is believed that xenotransplantation clearly bastardizes not only the dignity of the human person (by infusing tissues, cells, and organs that come from different species) but also the right of the animals (especially in the case of genetic modification that often creates hybrid creatures called chimeras). As for the second major point, animal organ transplants can increase the risk of breeding new or unknown diseases with the increase of a group of viruses called endogenous retroviruses.
In this sense, unlike viruses that actively cause infections, endogenous retroviruses remain dormant in their host— often embedded in the genetic material— and do not cause any obvious signs of disease.
The danger lies in the occasional activation of these viruses which may spread from various species. For example, pigs are known to possess a retrovirus called porcine endogenous retrovirus (PERV). As posited in recent researches, when pig cells are mixed with human cells in a laboratory, some human cells become infected with PERV (National Health and Medical Research Council 8). Conclusion Given the questions being raised on the ethical and technical aspects of xenotransplantation, there is a greater need for such medical procedure to be carefully studied and evaluated.
Other alternatives must also be strengthened— specifically, in increasing the awareness of the public on cells, tissue, and organ donations.
Billman, Keyna. Human Gene Therapy. NDSU.edu, 1996. Web. 9 May 2013.
Daar, A.S. Animal-to-human organ transplants – a solution or a new problem?Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 1997. Web. 9 may 2013.
Levy, Marlon. Animal Organs for Human Transplantation: How Close are We? n.d. Web. 9 May 2013.
National Health and Medical Research Council. Animal-to-human Transplantation research: A guide for the community. Australian Government, 2003. Web. 9 May 2013.
Nuffield Council on Bioethics. Animal-to-Human Transplants: The ethics of Xenotransplantation. Nuffield Foundation, 1996. Web. 9 May 2013.