The main benefit of xenotransplantation is its potential to overcome the worldwide organ shortage experienced in allotransplantation. Allogeneic transplantation is the only successful therapy for several life-threatening diseases, with cell, tissue or organ donation only partially meeting the demand and many patients dying while waiting for treatment. With supply falling short of demand, it is foreseen that the use of porcine material may at some stage overcome the existing gap between organ availability and clinical need. Recently, pig islet cells have been utilised in clinical trials, with safety being demonstrated. Indeed, pig-derived cells present several advantages: i) porcine cells have a stable function and differentiation pattern and are not tumorigenic; ii) pig cells have been shown to meet the physiological needs in large animal models; iii) the source of pig cells can be scaled up to meet demands in a highly standardised manner, and with respect to animal welfare regulations; iv) ‘designated-pathogen-free’ (DPF) pig lines can be produced, which could result in a higher safety profile than allotransplantation itself; v) the risk of zoonosis, which was raised years ago as the major hurdle, has been recently circumvented and is actually viewed as a controlled risk; and vi) immune risks are being circumvented via the use of genetically modified donor animals and encapsulation of porcine cells, particularly for the treatment of diabetes. Overall, the benefit appears to outweigh potential risks with respect to cellular xenotransplantation and this is discussed further in this review.
- animal cells