Choice of donor species

Clinical efforts at xenografting have used both concordant (chimpanzee and baboon) and discordanr (pig) donors. Although there are clear immunologic advantages to the use of concordant donors, practical issues will prevent the large-scale use of nonhuman primates for human transplantation. Chimpanzees are an endangered species. Baboons, while available in larger numbers, are too small for many types of transplantation. In addition, the need to exclude many potential pathogens in baboons, their long gestation time, and their slow maturation make it unlikely that large numbers of transplants from baboons to humans will ever be performed. Thus, concordant clinical xenotransplantation will prob ably occur only as a step toward more clinically useful discordant transplantation.

While many discordant species are available for humans, research efforts have focused almost exclusively on pigs. They are abundantly available, of appropriate size, demonstrate some important physiologic similarities to humans, and have short gestation times and large litters. These last features make it possible to accomplish genetic modifications of pigs over reasonable periods of time.

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