GKT4 Xenotransplantation

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Xenotransplantation practices

Xenotransplantation is defined as the transplantation of living cells, tissues or organs of animal origin or of human material that has had ex vivo contact with these living, xenogeneic materials. Xenotransplantation may be the response to alleviating the shortage of human organs for transplantation. However, despite recent progress in the transplantation of animal organs into humans, pre-clinical experiments do not yet justify human clinical trials. There are, however, careful ongoing trials of the transplantation of animal cells and tissues into humans. The risk that xenotransplantation practices could result in the transmission of an animal agent to the human recipient and possibly secondary transmissions is always present and requires the implementation of a series of safety measures and thorough surveillance.

Types of human xenotransplantation

The categories of xenotransplantation procedures include the following:

  • Solid organ xenotransplantation is a procedure in which a source animal organ such as kidney or liver is transplanted into a human;
  • cell and tissue xenotransplantation is the transplantation of tissues and cells from a source animal without surgical connection of any animal blood vessels to the recipient’s vessels;
  • extracorporeal perfusion occurs when human blood is circulated outside of the human body through an animal organ, such as a liver or a kidney, or through a bioartificial organ produced by culturing animal cells on an artificial matrix;
  • exposure to living animal-derived material is a procedure in which human body fluids, cells, tissues or organs are removed from the body, come into contact with animal cells, tissues or organs and are then placed back into a human patient.
Inventory of human xenotransplantation practices

Xenotransplantation practices are currently performed in several countries with or without national oversight and regulation, scientific justification or safety precautions. GKT includes an inventory of xenotransplantation practices globally. This international human xenotransplantation database collects minimal data on all types of human xenotransplantation practices. It is carried out in collaboration with the University of Geneva and the International Xenotransplantation Association. The aim of this observatory is to allow the identification of countries where such practices exist and provide information for international agencies, national health authorities, health-care workers and the public with the objective of encouraging good practices, international guidelines and regulations.

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Contact information

Transplantation of human cells, tissues and organs
Service Delivery and Safety
Health Systems and Innovation
World Health Organization
Avenue Appia 20
11211 Geneva 27