For many people, a new year represents an opportunity for a fresh start. But for over 100,000 Americans waiting for an organ transplant, it means another year of anxiety and clinging to hope. A small portion of those patients will eventually get a transplant, though their health may deteriorate while they wait. But with each passing year, most people on the waiting list will not receive the life-saving organ they need.

This chronic organ shortage has been a long struggle for the medical profession and very little progress has occurred. In fact, given the rising cases of organ failure and resulting increase in demand, things are getting worse for patients. A new name is added to the transplant waiting list every nine minutes. The truth is there simply will never be enough human organs available to meet the need. That is why scientists have begun to think outside the box to solve the shortage.

In the past decade, scientists have been diligently working to find innovative solutions to meet the shortfall and save lives. One of the most promising solutions: Pigs. At first glance, that animal may seem an unlikely candidate. In fact, pigs are a great candidate for organ supply because they are an extremely close physiological match for humans. Pigs have long been used successfully in medicine – including for skin grafts and heart valve transplants.

Now, cutting-edge scientists and transplant surgeons are charting the course for transplanting full pig organs into people who need a healthy organ. They believe that xenotransplantation, the process of transplanting organs or tissues from one species to another, holds the key to ending the organ shortage crisis.

Published in its entirety in Inside Sources.