Allotransplantation, Allografts & Xenografts

Instructor: Darla Reed

Darla has taught undergraduate Enzyme Kinetics and has a doctorate in Basic Medical Science

In this lesson, you'll discover the meaning of the term, allotransplantation, as well as what's involved in this medical process. You'll also explore allografts and xenografts in relation to transplantations.

What Is Transplantation?

Have you ever moved from one place to another? Perhaps from one city or state to another, or even to another country? We call people who have moved from one place to another transplants. Transplant means moving something from one place to another and often involves a little bit of hassle.

In science, transplantation refers to the movement of an organ, tissue or general body part from one place to another. If you've ever obtained or renewed a driver's license, the clerk probably asked if you wanted to be an organ donor. If you said 'yes', when you die, your organs may be harvested and transplanted to another person. This type of transplantation is known as allotransplantation.

What Is Allotransplantation?

Allotransplantation is the movement of an organ, tissue or other body part from one person to another. Just like an in-state or in-country move, the organ or tissue being transferred stays within the same species. And you don't always have to be dead before your organs or tissues can be transplanted. For example, in kidney transplants, a living person can donate one of his or her kidneys to another person because most of us can survive with just one of these organs.


While allotransplantations must occur within the same species, that species doesn't necessarily have to be human. For instance, if your puppy needs a new kidney and a donor dog is available, then your puppy will get a new kidney through allotransplantation.

Just as transplanted persons often have to get used to new state laws, organs and tissues that move from one person to another have to get used to a new body. In general, new bodies prefer their original parts and often fight off new organs and tissues in a process called rejection. This is why medication is often required for transplant patients.

Allografts and Xenografts

The new kidney your puppy received in the allotransplantation is called a allograft or homograft. A graft refers to the piece that is removed from the donor and given to the recipient.


Xenografts (pronounced zee-no-grafts or zen-oh-grafts) on the other hand, cross species. A xenograft refers to an organ or tissue from a donor belonging to a different species from the recipient. We call this transfer of organs and tissues between members of different species xenotransplantation.

For example, what happens if a patient needs a new heart? How about a non-human donor? Believe it or not, this has been done before. During the 1980's, doctors transplanted the heart of a baboon heart into a human infant in an attempt to save her life. 'Baby Fae' survived for just 20 days after the controversial operation. The cause of death was organ rejection.


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