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TIMELINE //

A Brief History of Xenotransplants

Using organs from one species to treat another has long fascinated scientists.

By Allan Coukell // Fall 2005
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First attempt at xenotransplantation

Erin Patrice O’Brien/Getty Images

1667

TWO FRENCH PHYSICIANS MAKE THE first documented attempt at human xenotransfusion, giving 12 ounces of lamb’s blood to a feverish 15-year-old boy, who reportedly recovers—though not likely because of the treatment.

Interspecies blood transfusion

Getty Images

1816

A PHYSICIAN IN SCOTLAND PERFORMS eight experimental transfusions between cats, dogs and sheep. He concludes that the donor and the recipient should be from the same species.

1906: whole organ xenotransplantation attempted

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1906

WHOLE ORGAN XENOTRANSPLANTATION begins in earnest when—perhaps inspired by a failed rabbit-to-human kidney-slice transplant—a French doctor transplants a pig kidney into a woman’s arm. It, too, fails.

“rejuvenation” therapy

Andrew Michael/Getty Images

1920

A DOCTOR IN PARIS TRANSPLANTS slices of monkey testicle into a man in the name of human “rejuvenation” therapy. By the early 1930s, more than 500 men reportedly have undergone the procedure to renew their vigor.

chimpanzee-to-human organ transplant

Tim David/Getty Images

1963–64

A TULANE UNIVERSITY TEAM PERFORMS a reported 13 kidney transplants from chimpanzees into humans. One 23-year-old woman survives nine months, the longest-known survival for a human with a xenotransplanted organ.

Baby Fae gets a baboon heart

Timothy Laman/Getty Images

1984

AFTER AN ANTIREJECTION DRUG, Cyclosporine, is approved in 1983, a team from the Loma Linda University Medical Center transplants a baboon heart into a seriously ill newborn known as Baby Fae, who lives 20 days.

Baby Fae gets a baboon heart

Timothy Laman/Getty Images

1992–93

A UNIVERSITY OF PITTSBURGH surgeon transplants livers from baboons into two human recipients with advanced hepatitis B. One of the patients lives 70 days after surgery, the other 26 days.

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That’s Some Pig

xenotransplantation

Sugar-free and engineered for tolerance, hogs may one day fill a need for transplant organs.

Crossing the Line

Could a transplanted pig organ serve as a Trojan horse for a deadly disease?

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