• Rich Barlow

    Senior Writer

    Photo: Headshot of Rich Barlow, an older white man with dark grey hair and wearing a grey shirt and grey-blue blazer, smiles and poses in front of a dark grey backdrop.

    Rich Barlow is a senior writer at BU Today and Bostonia magazine. Perhaps the only native of Trenton, N.J., who will volunteer his birthplace without police interrogation, he graduated from Dartmouth College, spent 20 years as a small-town newspaper reporter, and is a former Boston Globe religion columnist, book reviewer, and occasional op-ed contributor. Profile

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There are 3 comments on Can Animal Organ Transplants Save Thousands of Dying People?

  1. Xenotransplantation has for decades been the innovative solution to end-stage organ disease that is always five years in the future. The transplant scientific and clinical communities have consistently struggled with solving the problem of suppressing the human immune system enough to tolerate a functioning organ from a different species . Advances in genetic deletion and immune recognition methodologies have ushered in new hope that the five-year horizon for clinical application of xenotransplantation is truly in the VERY near future. Having said that, we are still at the troubling crossroads where this innovation is still a human subject experiment, in the setting of other modalities that represent the standards of care for end-stage organ disease. Simply put, xenotransplantation at this time is a potential public health benefit, but an individual-level experiment and likely sacrifice because the inevitable immunologic consequences and potential downstream infections are not completely solved. While individual level sacrifice has historically been a critical component of medical discovery progress, society cannot ignore that the individuals making these sacrifices are typically individuals with limited access to standards of care and often desperate for life-sustaining solutions with little to know additional compensation for their efforts. Xenotransplantation has to be an equitable solution to the problem of disparities in access to life-sustaining healthcare. To do otherwise sets up a future with a two-tiered system where the less fortunate are vulnerable to not receiving the standard of care. While this second tier of care may be better than no treatment, it is ultimately not equitable.

  2. This work needs to continue I believe, in the hopes of perfecting the process so that in the Hittite hearts as well as kidneys can be transplanted across species. I was involved in the baboon heart transplant many years ago at San Francisco General and that young man had more positive quality of life time , a gift indeed I am a proud BU psychiatric RN grad who worked with families in critical care units

  3. The cost of the pig transplant should be factored in to the short term success rate. The cost of these pigs would markedly increase the cost of transplantation.

    Also the pig has two kidneys so one potentially useful kidney is wasted.

    Given the time that has passed since Mr. Slayman’s death, there should be an opinion on why he passed away. Mr. Slayman may well have lived two months without the transplant or had issues that prevented a second human transplant.

    Problems with viruses, complement, thrombosis and unknown genetic knockouts admittedly need better definition.

    I hope that better matching and compatibility issues can be worked out before, pig organs get into broader use.

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