Reengineering Life

The First Pig-to-Human Organ Transplants Could Happen This Year

United Therapeutics reveals its plans to perform the transplants in an exclusive interview with Future Human

Emily Mullin
Published in
5 min readJan 5, 2021

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Photo illustration: Getty Images

Reengineering Life is a column from Future Human about the ways humans are using biology to reprogram our bodies and the world around us.

Every day in the United States, 17 people die waiting for a lifesaving organ transplant. To address this crisis, one biotech company is turning to an unlikely source: pigs. Maryland-based United Therapeutics says it plans to begin transplanting organs from genetically modified pigs into people as soon as this year.

“We’re right on that cusp. We’re looking to get into humans within the next year or two,” said David Ayares, PhD, in an exclusive interview with Future Human. Ayares is the chief scientific officer of Revivicor, a subsidiary of United Therapeutics that’s developing the pigs. “We think we have the pig that is going to be what we bring forward into humans in 2021 or 2022.”

For decades, scientists have been hopeful that organs from other species could be used to replace faulty ones in humans, known as xenotransplantation. But animal organs trigger immediate and severe immune reactions…

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Emily Mullin
Future Human

Former staff writer at Medium, where I covered biotech, genetics, and Covid-19 for OneZero, Future Human, Elemental, and the Coronavirus Blog.