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Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology
Volume 13 (1999), Issue 4, Pages 311-318

Xenotransplantation: A Potential Solution to the Critical Organ Donor Shortage

K Howe Sim, Anton Marinov, and Gary A Levy

Multiorgan Transplant Research Unit, The Toronto Hospital, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Copyright © 1999 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The success of allotransplantation as a treatment for end-stage organ failure has resulted in the need for an increasing number of organ donors. Attempts to meet this need include the use of organs from living related and unrelated donors, financial or other incentives for the donor family, and even the reuse of transplanted organs. Despite these initiatives, the supply of organs for transplantation still falls far short of the demand, as evidenced by longer waiting times for transplantation and decreasing transplantation rates. Even if Canada were able to increase its organ donor rate to that of Spain (40 to 50/million), where organ donation is governed by ‘presumed consent’ legislation, this would not alleviate the problem of donor shortage. Interest in xenotransplantation stems from the need to overcome this increasingly severe shortage of human organs. Indeed, some argue that xenotransplantation is the only potential way of addressing this shortage. As immunological barriers to xenotransplantation are better understood, those hurdles are being addressed through genetic engineering of donor animals and the development of new drug therapies. However, before xenotransplantation can be fully implemented, both the scientific/medical communities and the general public must seriously consider and attempt to resolve the many complex ethical, social and economic issues that it presents.