Human kidneys grown in rats
With more than 123,000 people in the United States currently waiting for an organ transplant and 21 people dying each day while waiting for one, a new privately funded study has shown promise in tackling the organ donor shortage.
Researchers have developed a way to grow kidneys taken from aborted human fetuses by implanting the organs in rats. The long-term goal of this research, the study co-author, Eugene Gu says, is “to grow human organs in animals, to end the human donor shortage”. Researchers obtained donated fetal tissues and transplanted the fetal kidneys into adult rats and connected the animals’ blood vessels to the organs that involved tiny stitching. What made this research successful compared to previous failed attempts was adjusting the blood pressure to match the transplanted organ. The blood pressure of rats is three times higher than in human fetuses. Rats with transplanted kidneys survived around four months after transplant, with one surviving for 10 months.
Ethical issues are being raised with this new research and not just the ones related to the use of organs from aborted fetuses. Some of these organs may in the future be grown in larger animals like pigs and that raises the question of how comfortable people would be with receiving them.