There’s a truth to the hog butchers’ saying that every part of the pig from the tail to the snout can be used — thus, the phrase, “everything but the squeal.” Not only do butchers attest to this fact, but also scientists and medical professionals who have been eyeing the various possible uses of this animal for nearly a century now.
Apart from its culinary uses, some parts of the pig are being studied for medical purposes:
The porcine hide has been used as a temporary skin substitute to cover exposed or damaged areas. While the human skin is not yet ready for transplanting, surgeons and doctors have used wet pork skin to give the patients skin time to heal.
The earlier attempts of grafting the human skin with pig skin have been biologically rejected by the human body; however, Japanese scientists have found a better solution by using skin of transgenic pigs (pigs genetically modified to carry human genes). There is a lesser possibility of rejection with this method. Hopefully, with continuous medical advancement, this method could greatly help sever burn patients.
Pig Heart Valves
Since 1975, pig heart valves have been installed by surgeons on human chests as an alternative replacement to human heart valves. Pig heart valves, as compared to mechanical ones, have lesser blood clotting possibilities; however, pig valves last only ten years. The mechanical valves on the other hand last longer, but would require recipients to take blood-thinners for the rest of their lives.
Pig insulin only slightly differs from human insulin. For this reason, hundreds of thousands of diabetics’ lives have been saved throughout the past decades with the use of insulin derived from pigs. The Russian scientists have found a medical breakthrough with the implantation of pig pancreas on humans in the hopes that these could become insulin-producing factories within the human body.
Scientists at Harvard University have found that injecting embryonic pig brain cells into the brains of persons afflicted with Parkinson’s dramatically reduced the symptoms of the disease. The same procedure was seen to help stroke victims as well. The brains of the fetal pig supply neurochemicals and cells that were lost from the human brain as a result of the diseases. The experiments have met partial successes and still could be seen as inconclusive, but researchers are continuously working on it.
These are just some of the experiments and findings on the use of pig parts as alternative medical procedures. Presently, scientific, religious, and ethical issues are also being considered.
Recently Australian scientist revealed a medical breakthrough. Pig’s lungs can now be transplanted to humans. According to Dr. Glen Westall of the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne, Australia, “This is a significant advance compared to experiments that have been performed over the past 20 years.”
Successful results were seen with the use of genetically modified pigs. Now, the scientists would still have to deal with ethical issues—and this is a significant hurdle.
The entirety of the results is still kept from the public and may be released to the medical community and the public before the end of 2010.