We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is a Xenotransplant?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 17, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGeek is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGeek, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Xenotransplant is transplantation of organs, valves or other medical products (like blood or stem cells) between species that may or may not be similar to each other. In most human medicine, this means harvesting some parts of animals to be used directly in human bodies. In some cases this is common treatment, such as in the use of bovine (cow) or porcine (pig) valves to replace faulty human heart valves. In other cases, the idea of xenotransplantation is principally theoretical and experimental, with little strong evidence of benefit. Despite lacking evidence for the efficacy of most procedures, many medical researchers believe xenotransplant technology is pioneering work that may improve medical care, though there exists objections to the practice among animal rights advocates.

The most potentially beneficial uses of xenotransplants would be to transplant organs from animals to humans, and in a few limited cases this has been tried in humans. It has not been successful due to the pronounced rejection that occurs, even if the organs are transplanted between similar species, like baboons to humans. This matter is still being researched, often by performing animal-to-animal transplants.

Other types of xenotransplant that have been explored in limited trials include injecting cells from animals into humans. For example, fetal pig cells may have curative or helpful properties in treating brain disorders. Generally, concerns about rejection are much lower when more minute elements of a species, like cells, are transplanted. This isn’t always true; blood xenotransplantation isn’t successful because it’s hard to find matches between human and animal blood types.

Since the 1970s, a number of xenografts have been successful. Cardiothoracic surgeons routinely replace faulty human heart valves with porcine or bovine valves. Contrary to popular belief, porcine valve replacement is not a violation of Kosher principals, and there can be advantages for choosing a pig or cow valve over cadaver human valves. They are just as effective and more readily available, while cadaver valves can only be harvested from people who gave permission before their deaths.

In this last statement lies the principal ethical objection to xenotransplantation. Animals can’t and don’t choose to be transplant subjects, and they usually have to be killed in order for a transplant to occur. Some detractors argue this is unnecessary exploitation. Especially since pigs are so often killed, those in support view a xenotransplant as not much different than farming, but those opposed to it may also be opposed to raising animals for food.

Another concern, which may or may not arise from ethical considerations, is the possibility of spreading animal germs to humans, which could result in serious public health concerns. This is another reason pigs are frequently used: humans and pigs have cohabitated for millennia and have been exposed to each other repeatedly. Thus far, the xenotransplant research that exists doesn’t show ready spread of viruses between species, but this would need to be given attention with greater use of the technology. The principal barrier, though, is still rejection of the xenotransplant, and without resolving this issue, the technology may remain limited in scope.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia...
Learn more
WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.