Frankenpig: How Pork Producers Are Changing Medical Science

Posted by Gaby Wallace on November 13th, 2018

People “pig out” on their favorite foods. Tim Allen playfully grunts that some men are “pigs.” Yet, many would be surprised at the close human identification to pigs. 

Fortunately for the human race, the porcine group provides more than just breakfast food and the basis for great barbecue. The National Institutes of Health tells us that cross-species transplants have been attempted for at least 300 years. Only now that genetic science has advanced does the medical community have the tools it needs to transplant organs and even skin from the pig to the human. 

How The Pig's Body Compares To The Human Body

Some scientists have found that the evolutionary process has created an RNA compatible between pigs and humans. Called the 7SL RNA, scientists believe that it is the common denominator in the evolution of swine and humans, both of whom are primates. 

Many of the pig's biological systems mirror the human's systems. The most remarkable is the cardiovascular system. It's the same size and performs the same function as the human heart. Pigs have heart attacks, too. Additionally, the porcine kidney is similar in size and function to the human kidney. 

Even the pig's and human's diets are the same. Both eat meat and plant foods, which tells us that the digestion, metabolism and liver function of both are similar. That's not all. Until the 1980s, childhood diabetics or Type 1 diabetics used insulin derived from pigs' pancreas. In the 1980s, science began making synthetic insulin that is used to this day. 

How Pork Producers Are Changing Medical Science

Pig to human organ transplants are still years off. Several break-throughs need to happen before we see these transplants. However, the medical community has no shortage of porcine medical aids. For example, heparin, a blood thinner, is derived from pigs. Pig's heart valves and skin are also used in medicine.

That's not all. Not much of a pig goes to waste at the end of his usefulness. What doesn't go into pet foods goes to the pharmaceutical industry. Smithfield, for example, produces not only breakfast and other pork products. It also supplies the pharmaceutical companies with medicinal pig parts. 

Most people would think that pigs are full of GMO feed, growth hormones, and antibiotics. These would seriously harm the medical community's use of pig parts. However, animals raised for the pharmaceutical industry are carefully raised hormone and antibiotic free. 

Thus, people may use with complete confidence such pig products as melatonin and steroids, derived from the pineal and adrenal glands, thyroxine from the thyroid for thyroid troubles, and thrombin for blood clotting. 

While all this is some years away from introduction to the masses, testing is underway to successfully transplant organs in humans. Pharmaceutical houses are already using pig parts in medical devices. 

So go ahead and “pig out” on that steaming plate of barbecue! The human identification with pigs isn't that close.

Like it? Share it!

Gaby Wallace

About the Author

Gaby Wallace
Joined: May 7th, 2018
Articles Posted: 14

More by this author