A brief history of clinical xenotransplantation

David K.C. Cooper, Burcin Ekser, A. Joseph Tector

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Between the 17th and 20th centuries, blood was transfused from various animal species into patients with a variety of pathological conditions. Skin grafts were carried out in the 19th century, with grafts from a variety of animals, with frogs being the most popular. In the 1920s, Voronoff advocated the transplantation of slices of chimpanzee testis into elderly men, believing that the hormones produced by the testis would rejuvenate his patients. In 1963-4, when human organs were not available and dialysis was not yet in use, Reemtsma transplanted chimpanzee kidneys into 13 patients, one of whom returned to work for almost 9 months before suddenly dying from what was believed to be an electrolyte disturbance. The first heart transplant in a human ever performed was by Hardy in 1964, using a chimpanzee heart, but the patient died within 2 h. Starzl carried out the first chimpanzee-to-human liver transplantation in 1966; in 1992 he obtained patient survival for 70 days following a baboon liver transplant. The first clinical pig islet transplant was carried out by Groth in 1993. Today, genetically-modified pigs offer hope of a limitless supply of organs and cells for those in need of a transplant.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)205-210
Number of pages6
JournalInternational Journal of Surgery
StatePublished - Nov 1 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Heart
  • Islet
  • Kidney
  • Nonhuman primate
  • Xenotransplantation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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