UPSC Daily Editorial Analysis | 04 March 2022

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What’s the article is about?

The article talks about the recent advances in science and technology and their ethical implications on society.

Syllabus: GS4, Ethics -Ethics and Human Interface.

New developments in Science?

  • New smart glasses/spectacles by Ray-Ban/Facebook-branded as Stories.
  • Xenotransplantation developments.
    1. A gene-edited animal kidney is implanted in a brain-dead human.

    2. A gene-edited animal heart is used as a replacement for the patient.

    3. Organ farm to cultivate GM organs.

What does Xenotransplantation mean?

  • Xenotransplantation involves the transplantation of nonhuman tissues or organs into human recipients. 
  • Xenotransplantation, or transplanting organs across different species, was first tried in humans in the 1980s.
  • A heart from a pig that had undergone gene-editing has been used to remove sugar in its cells that’s responsible for that hyper-fast organ rejection.

Need of Xenotransplantation:

  • Organ shortage and fewer donors: In the USA alone 90,000 persons are waiting for kidney transplants. In Germany around 8500 waiting for organs. In India, patients need 25,000-30,000 liver transplants annually. But only about 1,500 end up receiving them.
  • Organ smuggling and trafficking: Lead to huge price in organs and availability became scarce. 
  • Increasing disease burden: Due to advancements in medicine, the average life expectancy has increased. Persons facing organ failure due to old age and lifestyle issues have increased the demand.

Advantages of Xenotransplantation:

  • Availability: Organs will be available immediately and selectively.
  • Eliminate illegal organ trafficking: Easy availability of organs reduces the demand and hence decreases illegal organ trafficking.
  • Pig organs have similarities to human organs
  • The unlimited supply will allow transplantation procedures in ‘borderline’ candidates who might otherwise be declined.
  • Open New Research Areas: This would open new research about treating illnesses meaning that different animals have individual ways of fighting infections and through xenotransplantation, humans might be able to cure deadly diseases.

Ethical Issues in Xenotransplantation:

  • Animal rights: Many, including animal rights groups, strongly oppose killing animals to harvest their organs for human use.
  • Informed consent: Autonomy and informed consent are important when considering the future uses of xenotransplantation.
  • Utilitarian Dilemma: Whether the health of human matter or health of animal matters the most.
  • Anthropocentric: Harvesting pigs or animals to source organs for human needs make again human-centric in the ecology that may be consequences in the environment.
  • Equality: Transplantation being a very expensive affair, the poor or marginal might be neglected giving preference to the rich.
  • Long-term functioning of organs: Many animals like pigs have a shorter lifespan than humans, meaning that their tissues age at a quicker rate.
  • Medical Implications: animal-to-human transplantation brings with it huge risks for the patient. 

Art 51A of the Indian constitution talks about the scientific temper everyone should develop in order to boost debate and also to bring the ethical and legality of Xenotransplantation.

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