We have an organ shortage that desperately needs ameliorating. With such pressing needs, some wish to bend or even break important ethical rules by, for example, obliterating the dead donor rule so that people can be killed for their organs.
We can't go down that road, but if it works, we can possibly use organs from pigs. This process known as xenotransplantation, may be coming within ten years according to a report, with kidneys being the most likely organs. From the story:
Organs from pigs could be widely available for transplanting into patients in a decade, Lord Winston said yesterday. The first organs suitable for transplanting, most likely kidneys, are expected to be ready within three years and, if tests are successful, their use could be widespread by 2018.
A herd of as few as 50 pigs is expected to be kept as breeding stock to provide organs "to order" and to slash waiting times for thousands of people needing transplants...
Human immune systems are quick to react to "foreign bodies" but the scientists are confident that they are close to modifying the genetic make-up of pigs to "humanise" their organs and make animal-to-human transplants possible.
Fear of a porcine virus crossing the species barrier is another issue to ponder and solve, but other than animal rights activists who think pigs are as important as people, who can hope that this research does not bear fruit?