Medical breakthroughs continue to thrill

We are now taking the first steps into a new era of human health and well-being.

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Columnists

January 25, 2022 - 11:24 AM

It was only three months ago that surgeons successfully attached a kidney from a genetically altered pig to a human recipient. Since then, new successes continue to pile on. In December, the kidney procedure was successfully repeated. Then, earlier this month, we celebrated another huge leap forward in such xenotransplantation: Surgeons successfully transplanted a pig heart into a human patient who lives in the Baltimore area. For this accomplishment, congratulations are in order.

The success of these procedures hinged on the incredible talent of surgeons and medical professionals, and it also required decades of behind-the-scenes research to build the foundations of genetic engineering in pigs. It was a continuum of work that I was part of at a lab in Missouri beginning over two decades ago and is now offering hope to the more than 100,000 people waiting for organ transplants.

But there was also a time when that initial research was derided as, pardon the pun, pork barrel spending.

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