Dr. Christodoulidis: Heart valve transplants from animals in Cyprus as well
There is no choice but to follow the path of heart transplants from genetically modified pigs
There is no other solution than to follow the path of heart transplants from genetically modified pigs, since the lack of human organs for transplantation around the world is huge, says the President of the Cyprus Cardiac Society, Dr. Theodoros Christodoulidis, who describes the first heart transplant, attempted in the USA by a genetically modified pig, as an "important and pioneering step".
However, Dr. Christodoulidis emphasizes that although the way is open for new types of transplants, which will save the lives of many people, nevertheless this road is "very long" and is far from coming into the daily practice of medicine.
Asked by KYPE to state what the first heart transplant performed by a genetically modified pig on a 57-year-old American citizen means to the scientific community, Dr. Christodoulidis said that "it is definitely a very important news for the scientific community", talking about something "revolutionary", which is applied for the first time in cardiology and organ transplantation in general.
He adds that although it is something that is far from coming into the daily practice of medicine, he nevertheless adds that "there is no other solution than to follow this path, because heart transplants, in particular, are a big problem for the medical community. ».
Few cuttings worldwide, turning to other solutions
As he states, the number of patients with heart failure is increasing more and more as the years go by, explaining that this is due to the increase in diseases, which lead to heart failure.
According to the President of the Society of Cardiology, many people who are on transplant waiting lists die each year before receiving the vital organ they need to live.
In addition, he emphasizes that "there are very few cuttings in the world", to add that "we must definitely turn to other solutions".
"The need for heart transplants is constantly increasing and patients with heart failure reach - despite the treatments - a final stage and end up having no choice but to have a transplant. "There are many treatments for heart failure, but they are not always therapeutic," said Dr. Christodoulidis.
In the waiting lists and Cypriot citizens, the chances for a transplant are small
Answering a question, Theodoros Christodoulidis said that many of our Cypriot citizens are waiting in Centers abroad, noting that they have "little chance of finding a transplant", due to the large number of waits around the world.
Asked if this is the first time that a xenograft has been created in the world or has been attempted in the past, he answered that in the heart it is the first time that a transplant is attempted in this way, ie with a genetically modified pig heart.
Citing the literature, he mentions that he had tried again in the past in a pediatric case with a monkey heart, which, however, was not successful, as it lasted for very few days.
In addition, he states that efforts are also being made for other types of transplants, while noting that what is most often done is the transplantation - not of solid organs - but of some cells from animals to humans, for the treatment of some diseases.
On a daily basis, and in Cyprus, heart valve transplants from animals
Referring to prosthetic heart valve transplants from animal material, Dr. Christodoulidis explained that it is something very different and has been applied to heart patients for many years.
He further explains that the animal valve itself is not transplanted, but valves are made from material obtained from the hearts of animals and from the pericardium in particular, whether of pigs or cattle.
He adds that the material is shaped like an artificial valve, which is surgically placed in patients.
He speaks of "a well-established method, which he says is often used with great success, but is very different from solid organ transplantation."
Regarding the transplantation of solid organs, he notes that "for this process there are other issues, which concern compatibility, ie the possibility for the human body to reject the animal heart, to recognize it as a foreign body, to attack it and then destroy it ".
As he notes, "this does not happen when animal material is used for valves, because it is not the whole organ", adding that "the valves do not have perfusion so the situation is different".
"Such operations", according to Dr. Christodoulidis, "are carried out everywhere in the world and in Cyprus and on a daily basis."
What does genetic modification mean?
The President of the Cardiac Society of Cyprus states in KYPE that with the method of genetic modification the DNA of the animal is modified, with the aim that the human immune system does not recognize it as foreign and does not reject it.
He also explains that the bet at the moment is not to reject the heart of this person's body in the USA, while he notes that "it is unknown when and if his body will reject the heart".
"The first few weeks are theoretically the most important for acute rejection," he says.
Why the pig implant
Answering another question why the implant was taken from a pig, Dr. Christodoulidis explained that the heart was taken from a pig, because its anatomy is very close to the human heart.
"The sizes are close to the sizes and they are easy to overturn," he added.
Cyprus at low levels in organ donation
Dr. Christodoulidis notes, among other things, that "Cyprus is at low levels in terms of organ donation", since, as he states, "it depends on the decision of the family environment, at the moment when a brain death of a relative of the person occurs".
"As you understand it is not as easy as having already declared or not stated that you want to become an organ donor. "So it is at the convenience of the family environment and it is a difficult time to decide."
He adds that in Cyprus the culture of organ donation "is still behind" and reiterates the need for organ donation in our country.
He calls on the world if he finds himself in a difficult position to be asked about the possibility of organ donation being positive, in order to help other fellow citizens.