Scientists have made “progress” on transplanting pig organs into humans, Professor Luke O’Neill has said.
Transplanting animal organs into humans is not a new idea; previously, scientists have tried to implant the organs of chimpanzees into people - with no success.
The focus has now switched to pigs and scientists think a breakthrough is in sight after years of research.
“As you know, there’s many people waiting for a kidney or whatever it might be,” Professor O’Neill told The Pat Kenny Show.
“Pigs have always been thought of as a good source of organs because they’re the same size roughly as us and their organs are similar and they’re beginning to crack it.
“Kidney and heart are the two main organs that we’re talking about in a way - and there’s been progress.
“Not in humans yet it must be said; we’re talking about primates but the big news this week is they’ve put a kidney into a [brain] dead person… and it wasn’t rejected… They’re going to go into fully living humans next.”
A normal pig organ would be recognised as foreign and rejected by the body, so scientists have been working on how to trick the body into not noticing something is different.
“They know a lot about what happens when you put a pig kidney into another species,” Professor O’Neill said.
“What parts are being rejected and an enzyme [is] the neon sign in the pig’s kidney that gets recognised by the human immune system.
“Knock that out, the enzyme goes away and the immune system doesn’t attack it anymore you see.
“It’s more like a human kidney.”
Main image: Split of Luke O'Neill and a piglet.