Frontiers in Bioscience-Landmark (FBL) is published by IMR Press from Volume 26 Issue 5 (2021). Previous articles were published by another publisher on a subscription basis, and they are hosted by IMR Press on imrpress.com as a courtesy and upon agreement with Frontiers in Bioscience.
Organ transplantation is limited by the number of cadaveric human donor organs that become available. Xenotransplantation - the transplantation of organs and tissues between animal species - would supply an unlimited number of organs and offer many other advantages. The pig has been identified as the most suitable donor animal. Pig organs, when transplanted into humans or nonhuman primates, are, however, rejected hyperacutely within minutes by antibody-mediated complement activation. Human anti-pig antibodies have been identified as being directed against galactose alpha 1-3galactose (alpha Gal) epitopes on pig vascular endothelium. Methods have been successfully developed to prevent hyperacute rejection. These include (i) depletion or inhibition of recipient antibodies or complement and (ii) development of transgenic pigs that express a human complement-regulatory protein (e.g. hDAF). The persistence or return of anti-pig antibody, however, even following the use of hDAF pig organs, eventually leads to what has been variously termed "acute vascular rejection" or "delayed xenograft rejection", which is again believed to be largely antibody-dependent. Nevertheless, experimental pig-to-primate organ xenotransplantation now results in transplant function for days and weeks rather than minutes. Little is yet known of the nature of the acute cellular rejection response that is anticipated to follow, and of any subsequent chronic rejection that may develop. Tolerance to both the alpha Gal epitope and to swine leukocyte antigens (SLA) is being explored using gene therapy techniques and by the induction of hematopoietic cell chimerism. The development of genetically engineered pigs that do not express the alpha Gal epitope is also being pursued. Considerable progress has been made in recent years, but experimental results do not yet warrant the initiation of a clinical trial of organ xenotransplantation. However, trials are already underway of pig cell transplants in patients with diabetes and neurodegenerative conditions, such as Parkinson's disease.