Medical

Scientists announce huge leap toward pig-to-human transplants

Scientists announce huge leap toward pig-to-human transplants

Unless the pig organs are edited to also be more compatible for human bodies, it'd be too unsafe to transplant them into people.

The researchers, including famous Harvard geneticist George Church, used the powerful gene-editing tool CRISPR-Cas9 and the same technology used to clone Dolly the sheep to create healthy piglets that can't transmit harmful viruses.

According to the US Health Resources and Services Administration, there are more than 118,000 people in the US who are on the waiting list for organ transplants. The research has been published in the journal Science. "We don't know that if we transplant pig organs with the viruses that they will transmit infections, and we don't know that the infections are unsafe", he tells the Times.

Experiments showed pig cells could infect human cells with Pervs in the lab.

Researchers in the United States used the precision gene editing tool Crispr-Cas9 combined with gene fix technology to deactivate 100% of Pervs in a line of pig cells.

"We don't know that if we transplant pig organs with the viruses that they will transmit infections, and we don't know that the infections are unsafe", Fishman said. While most major religious groups say pig organs are acceptable in the case of lifesaving transplantation, one example that could be a problem for Jewish and Muslim patients is accepting a kidney transplant, because dialysis is a viable alternative. And even with PERVs off the table, pigs will require other modifications so that their organs won't be rejected by the human immune system or cause other harms.




"The problem is that all pig cells carry cancer viruses embedded in their DNA". What's more, retroviruses replicate by inserting a copy of their genome into their host's so those viruses may have been part of the pig genome for the roughly 25 million years that pig species have existed.

The study further increases hope that xenotransplantation - the use of animal organs for human transplant - could one day be used to assist with a shortage of crucial human organs like hearts, livers, and lungs. These are known as endogenous retroviruses which, although normally silent, can be activated to become fully infectious for human cells when pig cells carrying these retroviruses are co-incubated with human cells. "Our study highlights the real concern and the significance of addressing this issue", study co-author Luhan Yang, the co-founder of biotech company eGenesis, tells The Verge.

Each pig cell was brought back to its earliest developmental stage and then slipped into an egg, giving it the genetic material to allow the egg to develop into an embryo.

"About 22 people a day die waiting for a transplant", he said. Growing whole organs in petri dishes is still decades away, so for now our best bet might be pigs.

Gene editing technology has been making waves for the past year for its revolutionary medical promise.


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