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Four small pigs sleep side by side on top of a ground floor covered with hay.

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND—Add your name to a waitlist for a kidney transplant in the United States today, and you’ll join around 100,000 people, many of whom have already been waiting years. The scarcity of life-saving organs for transplants has raised hopes for substitute organs from pigs, which have a similar anatomy to humans. But decades of scientific setbacks have kept clinical trials of that approach, called xenotransplantation, on the horizon.

Now, a few teams are chomping at the bit. Exhilarated by recent results in monkey experiments, some researchers here at a meeting of the International Xenotransplantation Association are eyeing human testing.

“What we thought was very far away seems to be coming to the near future,” says Muhammad Mohiuddin, a cardiac transplant surgeon at the University of Maryland School of Medicine here. He moderated a premeeting session where scientists discussed advances with officials of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which would review any application for a clinical trial.

Teams focusing on kidney and heart transplants now have results they’re eager to share with regulators. In the past couple of...