Mrs. Cerretani's 7th grade science class at Marshall Simonds Middle School in Burlington, MA recently used Walden's pig hearts to learn about the inner workings of the heart. This was a nice connection for Walden to make, as we are intent on utilizing the whole animal - and it also hopefully inspired some young minds!
Anatomically, the pig heart is very similar to the human heart - so much so that scientists recently reported implanting one in a baboon… after one year it is still properly functioning. Scientists are tweaking the DNA of the pig heart to make it more compatible with primates and humans, hoping to unlock a solution to the shortage of healthy organ donors.
Artificial hearts have offered a solution to many patients waiting for a replacement heart, but these typically have issues with power supply, infection, and clotting, and other associated problems. Valves from pig hearts are already widely used - and by modifying the DNA scientists hope to reduce the dangerous immune response to utilizing an entire replacement heart. This is a very promising development for many folks suffering from heart disease and heart failure.
Maybe some of these young scientists will crack the code someday!