The ability to transplant pig organs into humans would resolve the current crisis in the supply of cadaveric human organs for the treatment of end stage disease. Several immunologie barriers need to be overcome if pig-toprimate transplantation is to be successful. The presence of preformed antibodies in humans, apes and Old World monkeys directed against galactose epitopes on pig vascular endothelium provides the major barrier, as binding of antibody to antigen leads to graft destruction by complement activation and other mechanisms. Hyperacute rejection can result from the action of complement. If this is prevented, delayed antibody-mediated rejection develops, which can be associated with a state of consumptive coagulopathy (disseminated intravascular coagulation, DIG). Efforts being made to overcome antibody-mediated rejection include depletion of antibody by extracorporeal immunoadsorption, prevention of an induced antibody response by co-stimulatory blockade, B-cell and/or plasma cell depletion, depletion or inhibition of complement, or the use of organs from pigs transgenic for a human complement regulatory protein, such as hDAF. The ultimate solution would be the induction of both B- and T-cell tolerance to the transplanted pig organ, which is being explored by attempting to induce haematopoietic cell chimerism. One complication of this is a thrombotic microangiopathy, similar to thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura. The many and diverse roles in which pharmacotherapy is involved in attempts to overcome the barriers of xenotransplantation are reviewed and current progress, particularly in our own laboratory, is discussed. 2000 ©Ashley Publications Ltd.