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How animals could be the solution to America’s organ problem

(BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/GettyImages)
(BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/GettyImages)

Children’s author Marjorie Blackman wrote “Pig Heart Boy” in 1997 after reading an article aboutxenotransplantation, the act of transplanting an animal organ or product into a human to cure disease.The story follows a a 13-year-old boy with a bad heart whoaccepts a transplantof a pig’s heart into his bodyin order tolive.

A lot has changed in the world ofspecies to speciesorgan donation since “Pig Heart Boy” was published. Last year, scientists at the University of Alabama at Birmingham performed the transplant of genetically-modified pig kidneys into a brain-dead human being. And this month, surgeonsat the University of MarylandMedical Center transplanted a heart from a genetically-modified pig into a living human patient.

The need fororgans in the U.S. is dire – more than100,000 patients are on the national transplant list, and 17 of them die each day waiting for organs.How can the use ofxenotransplantation address thisneed?

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