Xenografts are cells or sections of tissue that are removed from one species and grafted on or into a different species. Grafts of this type are sometimes used to provide temporary protection from infection for burn victims, as well as in the process of cancer research. In most cases, the xenograft is treated before the grafting takes place, which helps to reduce the chances of the host body rejecting the harvested tissue.
One common use of the xenograft is the treatment of human beings who are missing significant sections of skin. Burn victims are one example. In order to help facilitate the healing process, skin is harvested from animals, processed to help make the skin more compatible to the human body, then surgically connected or attached to the area of the burn. Doing so helps to minimize the risks of infection during the recovery period and allows the body time to begin rebuilding healthy skin cells on its own.
Along with burn victims, people suffering with other health issues may benefit from the use of xenografting. Diabetics in advanced stages may receive a xenograft as a means of restoring a section of skin on the feet or legs that has deteriorated as a result of the disease. Cancer victims may receive this form of graft in order to repair damage to an internal organ.
There is a difference between a xenograft and the process known as xenotransplantation. A xenotransplant involves the harvesting of a complete organ for transplant into a human host. This is likely to occur when there is no human organ readily available and the patient’s condition is critical. In some instances, organs are harvested from pigs and successfully transplanted into humans. While often used as a means of keeping the patient alive until a more suitable organ can be secured, some people are able to live years with the use of animal organs, as long as the anti-rejection medication continues to help the body accept the presence of the transplant.
It is not unusual for a xenograft to be utilized as part of cancer research. In this application, human tumors are removed from the host and are grafted into a lab animal, such as a rodent. The graft makes it possible for researchers to study the progress of the tumor closely as different experimental drugs and procedures are tried in an attempt to shrink the tumor and force the cancer into remission.