Japanese doctors are planning to transplant a pig kidney into a human fetus. It will be the first clinical trial of such a procedure in the country.
The team at the Jikei University School of Medicine, which is led by Professor Yokoo Takashi, plans to submit an application to the government committee in charge of approving such procedures by around the end of this year.
The researchers say they hope to be able to transplant the kidneys of pig fetuses into human fetuses that have Potter syndrome. Fetuses with the syndrome cannot produce urine because their kidneys do not function. The researchers want the transplant to serve as a temporary measure until the baby is born and can undergo artificial dialysis.
Rejections resulting from cross-species transplants have been a major challenge, but the team says they are unlikely to occur in transplants of kidneys from pig fetuses. They say they will remove the pig kidney after the child is able to undergo dialysis.
Because xenotransplantations pose ethical issues, the researchers say they will look into whether they can gain public approval and proceed carefully. They say they plan to have ethical screening committees at research facilities approve the move.
If successful, it will be the first cross-species transplant in Japan.
Yokoo said he believes this is a treatment that will give hope to children who do not have other options. He said the team will proceed by examining the safety of the procedure and determining whether the move is socially acceptable. He said the team will also study the ethical aspects of the procedure and its effectiveness.