Scientist Move Closer to Pig-human Organ Transplants

Scientist Move Closer to Pig-human Organ Transplants

Scientist Move Closer to Pig-human Organ Transplants

A team of USA researchers has create the "most genetically modified animals in existence" in a bid to make viable pig-to-human organ transplants a reality.

Pig heart valves are already used in humans, but dead tissue doesn't carry the same HIV transmission risk, according to Scientific American.

"Our animal is probably the most [genetically] modified animal on the Earth", said Luhan Yang, co-founder and chief science officer of eGenesis, the Cambridge-based start-up that led the research. "The real breakthrough will be when people are moving around for years with pig organs, only then will we really know that it's safe and effective".

"We plan to increase the number of organs available through xenotransplantation [cross-species transplantation], when human donation isn't an option", eGenesis' website states.

According to UNOS (United Network for Organ Sharing), a new patient is added to the transplant list in every 10 minutes and around 20 people on that list, die on daily basis. Pigs have been a prime candidate as involuntary organ donors since theirs are about the same size as those of humans.

For decades, scientists have been pursuing the idea of pig transplants.

Whether or not the virus would actually cause diseases in humans is unknown, but they are considered an unacceptable risk. A team of global science is able to genetically modify the piglets so that their organs are more compatible for transplants in humans.

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It then took cloning technology, the same used to create Dolly the sheep, to place the genetic material from those cells into a pig's egg and create embryos. Knocking out three in particular could protect pig organs from being attacked by the human immune system, he said; lab macaques that received kidneys from the pigs have survived as long as 499 days.

They also gave insulin-producing islet cells from a pig to diabetic monkeys, and the monkeys lived for a year without requiring insulin.

A major obstacle until now has been the cancer viruses embedded in pigs' DNA, which are capable of making the jump to human cells.

But experts said it was a promising and exciting first step.

Dr Church and his colleagues ended up with 15 living piglets, the oldest now four months old.

The 15 black-headed piglets, born in a lab in southwest China's Yunnan Province, do not carry the active infectious viral gene which has impeded the process of pig-to-human transplantation for more than a decade, said Chinese members of an worldwide research team who released their findings Friday.

The availability of organs for transplant is a matter of life and death for thousands of patients. So, they turned to the flashy new gene editing tool, CRISPER-Cas9, to slice up and deactivate all instances of PERV genes in a pig cell line.

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