The photograph of a mouse with a human ear growing out of its back caused strong reactions when it was published in 1997. The mouse had been implanted with scaffolding mesh made from a material used to make dissolving stitches. It had holes for cells to grow, was shaped like a human ear and was implanted with cartilage from a cow's knee. The mouse was genetically mutated, possessing virtually no immune system. This meant that its body was unable to reject either the cow tissue or the scaffold material.
Most animals used for transplantation are apes, as they are our closest animal relative. Throughout the 1960s, as organ transplants between humans became more common, the possibility of animal-to-human transplants appeared feasible. It was also seen as a way of getting around the problem of the shortage of donor organs.
Kidneys, livers and hearts from baboons and chimpanzees were surgically transplanted into patients from 1963 to 1992, but all of the patients died shortly afterwards. Pigs are another animal used in experimental organ transplant surgery, but so far there have been no successful transplants.
BibliographyA S Daar, 'Ethics of Xenotransplantation: Animal Issues, Consent and Likely Transformation of Transplant Ethics', World Journal of Surgery, 21/9 (Nov 1997), pp 975-982
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