Pros And Cons Of Xenotransplantation: A Lifeline Or Ethical Dilemma?

The Tragedy of Baby Fae

The gift of life is an extraordinary thing. Having a child is something millions of women across the world dream of. However, for one mother, her dream shortly turned into a nightmare. On October 14, 1984, mother Teresa Beauclair gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. Little did she know that her baby girl was born with a heart defect called hypoplastic left-heart syndrome. This is caused by the left side of the heart not completely forming during the mother’s pregnancy, affecting the baby’s blood flow. Doctors shortly knew that baby Fae would not make it long enough to last on the transplant waiting list, but Dr. Leonard L. Bailey had another idea. Xenotransplantation.

The Promise of Xenotransplantation

Xenotransplantation is the transplant of cells, tissue, and even some organs from an animal’s donor to a human patient. Despite the efforts of the doctors from the Loma Linda University Medical Center in Loma Linda, California, baby Fae did not survive the transplant; however, this surgery and several others would soon save thousands of lives. Some might ask, “Why use animal specimens when we have a process that works.” The question that I’m asking is, “Is this process really working, though.”

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The Organ Shortage Crisis

Xenotransplantation could provide an unlimited source of cells, tissues, and organs for humans. Using alternative organs gives people a chance to decide whether to go onto the organ transplant waiting list or use an animal organ that works the same way. Along with any disease that is treated by human-to-human transplantation, it could potentially be treated by xenotransplantation. So how can we say that this process is working when more people are dying than being saved every day? According to the UNOS transplant waiting list, currently, 113,751 patients are in need of a life-saving organ. One person is added to this list every ten minutes, and approximately 20 people die each day from not receiving what they need in time. A study showed in a ratio of 4,000 patents, one in every three would die from not receiving what they need to survive.

However, one human donor can save up to eight lives by donating their organs and other life-saving materials. What I really want to know is why the world is okay with this process when we could have an endless amount of sources for us to use to save lives. Not only are doctors using organs, but they can also use tissue and muscle for skin grafts and other medical procedures. In one case, a first-degree burn heals naturally because the body is capable of replacing damaged skin cells.

However, deep second and full-thickness burns most likely will require skin graft surgery, allowing minimal scarring and a quick healing process. For a larger burn size, patients may need two or more operations while at the hospital they arrived at or one at a better convenience. Heterograft or xenograft is skin taken from a variation of animals, most commonly a pig. Xenograft skin first became popular due to the high expense and limited access to human skin tissue. Wound coverage using heterograft is an alternate covering used until autograft is ready to be used.

Animal Rights and Ethical Concerns

However, some animal activist have concerns and have taken it upon themselves to warn the public that science is slaughtering these innocent creatures for their body parts. In my opinion, they are leaving out a crucial part of this theory that they have. Yes, science is that these animals are slaughtered to use their body parts. However, they seem to leave out the life-saving part. The part about where at least 20 people die each day due to waiting on a list that would most likely never get to them in time anyway.

The part where these animals’ naturals can be used for a number of reasons, like heart valves, translates to skin grafts for burn victims. In my opinion, using animals to save thousands of lives is the least harsh thing that we can be currently doing to them. Every day, thousands of pigs, cows, sheep, fish, and the list goes on, are taken from their “homes” and sent to the slaughter for human consumption.

Biotechnology’s Role in Improving the Process

Since 2009, a science medical company has taken it upon itself to try and improve this process, and from my perspective, they have so far. The company Miromatrix is a biotechnology company that is focused on the development of fully biological human organs to help solve the chronic shortage of transplantable organs not just here in the United States but across the world as well. By utilizing their patented perfusion decellularization and recellularization technology while also developing the next generation of established acellular products. While companies like this are working toward a major goal, ethnic groups continue to ask questions they think could shut this down, like, “Should we even be doing this?” and “What about diseases traveling from donor to patient?” In spite of the nagging questions, these companies are smart and know exactly how to shut down these questions.

“Saving a life.” Is that a question? No, so why would using our resources to save thousands of lives be one? For diseases, before anything is transferred from donor to patient, it goes under a multiple chemical treatment to sterilize the specimen before it ever arrives at the patient’s destination. Using xenotransplantation will save hundreds if not thousands of lives in years to come if used by major hospitals around the world. So why are we still using a process that allows at least 20 people to die each day when there is a system out there that could potentially prevent people from dying by not getting the life-saving organ that they are in need of? By continuing to use heterograft or xenograft to help save burn victims and other skin or tissue medical procedures to help save lives.

Showing people that this biochemical science is actually benefiting us in many different ways than one. With the help of biotechnology companies like Miromatrix, we are solving the blank spaces in this puzzle to make this process better for everyone. So, with 113,751 patients currently waiting on a life-saving organ, why not switch to a process that could potentially save everyone?

References

  1. Bailey, L. L. (1985). Infant heart transplantation after the Baby Fae case. Journal of Pediatric Surgery, 20(5), 511-515.
  2. Cooper, D. K., & Lanza, R. P. (2000). Xenotransplantation: The transplantation of organs and tissues between species. Springer Science & Business Media.

From Patient To Healer: My Path To Becoming An Family Nurse Practitioner

Discovery and Inspiration

At the age of thirteen, I had an allergic reaction and was taken to the Emergency Department. While I was being evaluated by a health care professional, I noticed that she had Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) written on her name badge instead of M.D. or D.O. She diagnosed and treated me with a lot of empathy. Her enthusiasm for medicine and medical knowledge impressed me so much that I immediately developed an interest in the FNP profession. This interest was cultivated further when I volunteered at clinics and non-profit organizations. I was fascinated with the way physicians, nurse practitioners, and registered nurses practice medicine. They all work together as a team with one goal of providing high-quality health care.

During college, my schoolwork load and full-time job were tormented enough, but I always found ways to serve our community by volunteering. Volunteering at clinics allowed me to get hands-on experience in the field of medicine. Under the direct supervision of physicians, NPs, and RNs, I learned basic knowledge of patient assessment, EKG, and various other procedures. This solidified my decision to pursue a career in the medical field so that I can also become a valuable asset to the community.

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The Journey of Professional Growth

I instigated my dream by taking one step at a time. I enrolled in the Licensed Vocational Nursing (LVN) program. While attending this program, I was fortunate enough to volunteer at a local non-profit organization via school, which served underprivileged people. After attaining my LVN license, I worked as a charge nurse at a skilled living facility. Although this job provided me with skills and knowledge to serve others, I craved to learn more and broaden my scope of practice. I applied and was accepted into an RN program in Idaho. Moving away from home was not an easy task, but I knew that this would move me one step closer to my dream of becoming a FNP. After finishing the RN program, I started working as a Dialysis Registered Nurse. Through my work, I have established strong connections with patients and their loved ones.

Vision for the Future

I have never hesitated to take the extra time to talk to them and their families, answer their questions, address their concerns, and provide holistic care. I would like to pursue my career as an FNP. I see the FNP program as an opportunity for me to fulfill my medical and social responsibilities. I am eager to face the challenges, and I accept the uncertainties that come along with being a Family Nurse Practitioner. There will be many sleepless nights, but I would not have it any other way. I am eager to enjoy the privilege of working with the human body and influencing its growth, recovery, and development. I chose Family Nurse Practitioner because I understand the importance and the need for the early treatment and prevention of diseases. This is especially true for underserved and impoverished areas. I adopt the position that a lot of disease complications can be prevented if individuals are educated about the steps that they should take to lead healthier lives.

As a Family Nurse Practitioner, I will have the unique opportunity to work with individuals to prevent their need for more advanced medical treatment; this is something that I am passionate about. I am aware that many people do not have access to adequate healthcare. I look forward to providing respectful care to my patient’s needs, preferences, and values. I am also looking forward to hearing from the selection committee about my application. I hope you will give me a chance to fulfill my dream by considering me to join your college. Thank you for taking the time to read my personal statement.

References

  • American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP). (2019). Role of the Nurse Practitioner.

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