Baboons can live for up to 195 days with hearts taken from pigs and genetically engineered to avoid extreme immune reactions, according to a report published in Nature journal. This is a major step forward in xenotransplantation, providing hopes for many people who currently die while waiting for organ donations. Scientists said from here, human tests of the hearts could happen in under three years.

Due to recent improvements in the field of gene editing, generations of engineered pigs have been created which grow organs much less likely to be rejected by humans after transportation.

The procedure was aided by two new techniques: first, rather than using a cold storage system to preserve organs after removal, pumping a new oxygenated and blood-based solution through the hearts before transplantation was found to have improved organ integrity.

Secondly, a new regime of drugs was created to lower the chance of rejection by the organ. The regime consists of a drug that suppresses cell proliferation, a modified hormone treatment, and better immunosuppressive medicines. With this regime, only 20% of the baboons given transplants died from organ rejection.

To alleviate concerns around retrovirus infections harmless to pigs but dangerous to humans, researchers are using CRISPR editing technology to engineer

On the viral transmission front, scientists have long been concerned about infection from certain retroviruses that are harmless in pigs but may be fatal to humans. To combat this, researchers are using CRISPR gene editing to remove any endogenous viruses from pig embryos.