Pathways to Clinical Cardiac Xenotransplantation

Transplantation. 2021 Sep 1;105(9):1930-1943. doi: 10.1097/TP.0000000000003588.


Heart transplantation is the only long-lasting lifesaving option for patients with terminal cardiac failure. The number of available human organs is however far below the actual need, resulting in substantial mortality of patients while waiting for a human heart. Mechanical assist devices are used to support cardiac function but are associated with a high risk of severe complications and poor quality of life for the patients. Consistent success in orthotopic transplantation of genetically modified pig hearts into baboons indicates that cardiac xenotransplantation may become a clinically applicable option for heart failure patients who cannot get a human heart transplant. In this overview, we project potential paths to clinical cardiac xenotransplantation, including the choice of genetically modified source pigs; associated requirements of microbiological, including virological, safety; optimized matching of source pig and recipient; and specific treatments of the donor heart after explantation and of the recipients. Moreover, selection of patients and the regulatory framework will be discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Genetically Modified
  • Graft Rejection / immunology
  • Graft Rejection / prevention & control
  • Graft Survival
  • Heart Failure / diagnosis
  • Heart Failure / physiopathology
  • Heart Failure / surgery*
  • Heart Transplantation* / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Postoperative Complications / etiology
  • Recovery of Function
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Sus scrofa / genetics
  • Tissue Donors / supply & distribution*
  • Transplantation, Heterologous
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Waiting Lists