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the surgical transfer of cells, tissues or whole organs from one species to another
'I know there are concerns that xenotransplantation could lead to diseases passing from animals to humans, but I'm sure science can deal with these questions. The pig is not only the most physiologically compatible creature to man, but it also harbours very few infectious agents.'Daily Mail 1996
as the serious shortage of donor organs continues to be a global problem, xenotransplantation will be an important topic in 21st century medicine
This term has begun to enter dictionaries in the last three or four years as the possibility of using animal organs and tissues as a surgical solution to human health problems is hotly explored and debated. Pig heart valves have been considered as replacement valves for faulty human hearts, but there are serious counter-issues, such as the release of unknown viruses into the human population. Although humans and other animals share many bacteria and viruses, the impact of them may not be the same in different species, with the possibility of serious consequences if animal donors are used. However, as the serious shortage of donor organs continues to be a global problem, xenotransplantation will be an important topic in 21st century medicine.
The term derives from the Greek xeno meaning 'foreign', (and used in words like xenophobia, the irrational fear or dislike of people from other countries).
The term xenotransplant is an alternative form, or as a countable noun can also refer to the surgical procedure in which xenotransplantation occurs. Similarly, a xenograft is a tissue or organ transfer between a donor and recipient of differing species.
This article was first published on 24th March 2003.