Xenotransfusions, past and present

Xenotransplantation. 2007 May;14(3):208-16. doi: 10.1111/j.1399-3089.2007.00404.x.


The first blood transfusions in humans were xenotransfusions, carried out by Jean-Baptiste Denis beginning in 1667. Richard Lower, Matthäus Purmann and Georges Mercklin also experimented with the use of animal blood for transfusion until this practice was forbidden in 1670, after the death of one of Denis's patients. In the middle of the 19th century, xenotransfusion was rescued from oblivion by the work of Pierre Cyprien Oré. Franz Gesellius and Oscar Hasse fervently defended xenotransfusion, but Emil Ponfick and Leonard Landois stressed the potentially harmful effects of inter-species transfusion from 1874 onward. Xenotransfusion was abandoned completely following the discovery of blood groups by Karl Landsteiner in 1900. From 2000, because of progress in xenotransplantation and the need of blood supply, xenotransfusion is again being considered. Pigs are the best potential donors. The development of alpha-1,3-galactosyltransferase gene-knockout pigs has overcome the first hurdle to xenotransfusion. The main obstacle to porcine red blood cell transfusion is now the cellular response involving macrophages or natural killer cells.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood Group Antigens / history
  • Epitopes / immunology
  • Erythrocyte Transfusion / adverse effects
  • Erythrocyte Transfusion / history*
  • Erythrocyte Transfusion / methods*
  • History, 17th Century
  • History, 18th Century
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Cellular
  • Sus scrofa / blood*
  • Sus scrofa / genetics
  • Transplantation, Heterologous / adverse effects
  • Transplantation, Heterologous / history*
  • Transplantation, Heterologous / methods


  • Blood Group Antigens
  • Epitopes