I’m a newbie and utterly unfamiliar with biomedicine, but I’ve been reading a few scientific articles recently and a question has been nagging me ever since.

So apparently preserving donor organs long enough for transplant is a huge challenge. If cryopreservation or ex vivo perfusion can, at best, prolong organ survival by a few hours/days, why not just put them into host animals such as pigs? Xenotransplantation has become really successful in recent years, with graft survival for over 100 days, so why can’t we just put the human donor organs inside genetically-engineered immunodeficient pigs to preserve their function?

I’ve read about this guy who did something similar: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/ajt.13149 But he was using fetal organs harvested from aborted fetuses, rather than adult donor organs.

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What do you think the immune systems of the recipient animals are doing to the human donor tissue/organ? And if you immunosuppress those recipient animals, then you need to consider the effects of those drugs on the donor tissue/organ too. In short, putting an organ into the animal (and the animal using the organ, as with the kidneys in the paper you cited) is one thing, but taking the organ back out for use in a human would be a very different story.

Animals aren’t a good model for this, but bioengineered systems (hydrogel cultures + mechanical ventilation / perfusion) might be. See this paper as an example of what we might use in the future to achieve preservation. Stasis is another option (cryonics + others) but, for now, those aren’t practical.

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