Major religious groups have already weighed in on the ethical questions, however, generally concluding that pig organs are acceptable for lifesaving transplants, noted Dr. Jay Fishman, co-director of the transplant program at Massachusetts General Hospital. Pig heart valves already are routinely transplanted into patients.
(Leaders in the Jewish and Muslim communities, though, would not accept pig kidneys, reasoning that patients with kidney failure can survive with dialysis.)
The idea of using pigs as organ factories has tantalized investigators for decades. Porcine organs can be the right size for human transplantation, and in theory, similar enough to function in patients.
In the 1990s, scientists began pursuing the idea in earnest. But in 1998, Dr. Fishman and his colleagues