Scientists are one step closer to using pigs as sources of organ transplants for humans. Scientists at Harvard Medical School released a study in the journal Science last week that outlined their experiments using the gene editing technique CRISPR to eliminate viruses from pig DNA that would be harmful to humans if received in a transplant.  

Art Caplan, the director of the Division of Medical Ethics at NYU Langone Medical Center, emphasized the importance of this discovery in helping to reduce the number of patients on transplant lists.

“We face a huge shortage in organs relative to demand,” said Caplan. “There are tens of thousands of people who are not getting an organ and are going to die. Maybe they can come from animals.”

While you might think that a primate would be a more likely source of organs for humans, Caplan says that a pig actually provides an organ that is relative to the size of humans. “Pigs are kind of human beings horizontal,” said Caplan.

Now that it is possible to eliminate harmful viruses from pig DNA, the question no longer is can we harvest pig organs for human transplant, but should we? Caplan says yes.

“Is the moral value of saving your brother or your kid higher than sacrificing the pig," said Caplan. "It is harder to justify bacon than it is to use a pig as a source for a transplant."

To hear the full conversation, click on the audio player above.