New organ transplant technique may benefit cats and dogs

The subject of organ transplantation has been in the news recently because of an advance in human medicine. The Arizona Republic summed the issue up...

Dr. Eric Barchas  |  Feb 6th 2008


The subject of organ transplantation has been in the news recently because of an advance in human medicine. The Arizona Republic summed the issue up nicely in this article.

LOS ANGELES – In what is being called a major advance in organ transplants, doctors say they have developed a technique that could free many patients from having to take anti-rejection drugs for the rest of their lives.

The treatment involved weakening the patient’s immune system, then giving the recipient bone marrow from the person who donated the organ. In one experiment, four of five kidney recipients were off immune-suppressing medicines up to five years later.

Kidney transplants have been possible in cats for many years. However, organ transplants in pets are not common. This is partly because it is difficult to find acceptable anti-rejection drug combinations for animals.

Advances in human medicine almost always benefit pets as the techniques are modified and adapted to veterinary medicine. Eventually, this new technique could overcome one of the major obstacles to life-saving organ transplants in pets.

Unfortunately, one other major obstacle will remain: finding organ donors. Since cats and dogs cannot consent to donate organs, some people question the ethics of organ transplants in pets. Until technology allows veterinarians to grow new organs from scratch, this issue will not go away.