In the eyes of scientists, pigs are considered a living treasure, because they are not only human food sources, but they can be used as ingredients, samples, or cultures in science. There are even major scientific projects focusing on pigs for research.
In modern science, this quadrupedal animal is one of the most ideal and most important laboratory animals, it plays an important role in medicine and other fields. And the reality is, in the future, all of our human organs may have to be “borrowed” from this lazy and useless animal.
Pigs have long been associated with many negative things because of their appearance. For example, stupid like pigs, fat like pigs, lazy like pigs, … But in fact, pigs are not as bad as people think. On the contrary, it has a lot to offer. For example, pigs have the ability to learn and memorize very quickly, they have the same ability as dogs – “don’t forget their noses”. Their large and clumsy noses can smell odors 1-2 meters underground. Therefore, they are fully capable of doing the sniffing of their species such as sniffing for drug tests, searching for material evidence in cases, … Not only that, they also have cognitive abilities. quite tall. When properly trained, they can perform tasks such as drumming, swimming, swinging in place and pushing the cart in an upright position according to human guidance.
As one of the first domestic animals tamed by humans, they do not have many opportunities to show their ingenuity. These animals are kept in a cramped barn or barn all day, and when they grow up, they are slaughtered for human food. The fur can be used to make brushes, lard can produce soap, the pig manure can be used as fertilizer for crops, … It can be said, the whole body of a pig can used to provide resources for people.
During domestication that lasted tens of thousands of years, pigs became “very similar” to humans. Scientists also consider them to be an ideal animal species. As the name suggests, “pig model” is used to refer to the use of pigs to build models that simulate human disease.
The classic model animals that we often use in scientific research are mice, fruit flies and zebrafish. However, due to the biological distance between humans and them is quite far apart, so
they cannot completely imitate the birth of a human disease. But pigs are different, they are closer to humans, have anatomical structures and physiological functions closer to humans. Especially in the digestive system, cardiovascular system, metabolism, … are very similar. Therefore, the scientific research value of using pigs as a research model is very great.
Many people will probably wonder that pigs can grow up to a few hundred kilograms, and how can we study such large bodies? In fact, the breeds of pigs used as research models only grow to about 30 kg as adults. They are small pigs, genetically stable and easy to raise, easy to study.
Nowadays, in clinical medicine, malate dehydrogenase, thymosin peptide, myosin … are extracted from pig heart. There are also heparin extracted from pig liver, pig liver esterase, lecithin, etc. It is possible that the medicine you are taking includes a pig extract.
The pigs used for the supply of biological materials and biological products are also known as “raw pigs.” For example, pig skin is used to protect burn wounds in medical treatment, and pig cornea and heart valves are used in some surgeries. Even the insulin produced by pig cells is used to help treat diabetes.
More surprising is that the pig’s organs can be made into a thin layer of paper. It’s just that this paper is not an ordinary paper, because they have the characteristics of the cell. It may sound unbelievable, but recently published studies show that this organ-based bio-paper can even be frozen for long-term storage. Even when wet, these papers can still maintain their mechanical properties.
Scientists are currently trying to roll this bio-paper, fold it, cut it, and stitch it into the body’s tissues. This soft paper functions to help the human body heal wounds, heal scars or replenish the missing hormones in cancer patients.
However, what science is waiting for most is the use and transplantation of pigs. Currently, many patients around the world are waiting for organ transplants, but the donated organ cannot meet the needs, so many patients have died in the process of waiting.
Because of this, scientists have discovered the process of Xenotransplantation (heterozygous) since the 1960s, that is, transplanting animal organs into the human body.
The preferred organ donors are primates, as they are close relatives of humans. At that time, surgeons tried to transplant chimpanzee organs to humans, but all the surgeries ended in failure. But to date, it has been found that the use of primates as donors faces a variety of problems. For example, disease spread between species, elimination reactions and long growth cycles. In this case, the pig becomes the scientist’s second choice.
Through analysis and research, the medical world knows that pig heart is very similar to human heart in anatomical structure. Due to the relatively long distance between species, the transmission of diseases is much reduced compared to primates.
Since the 1990s, scientists have been trying to perform Xenotransplantation implants from pigs. But experiments have found that pig organs not only have a problem with immune elimination in the body, but they can also be “toxins”. Pig genomes contain endogenous viruses. But today, gene-editing technology has made this idea a reality. In 2017, Harvard postdoctoral fellow Yang Luhan and others successfully raised the world’s first batch of pigs with inactivated endogenous viruses. This addresses the biosafety problem of using pigs as an organ donor, and Xenotransplantation technology has taken an important step forward.
In late December 2018, four baboons from Bruno Richter’s lab at the University of Munich, Germany, were successfully transplanted the heart of a pig. All of these baboons survived more than 90 days after receiving a pig heart transplant. The baboon survived 195 days, far exceeding the record for a Xenotransplantation transplant by a non-human primate. This also means that Xenotransplantation implantation could be successful in the future.
When scientists find the gene that causes the rejection response in the future and replace it with another gene that can accept parts with the same attributes as humans, perhaps using pigs as organ donors. will be at hand. But there is a fact, despite the success in research, but this is still facing many problems related to ethics.