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Pigs genetically edited so their organs can be used for human transplants

Posted: August 10, 2017 at 8:47 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)

Pig organs could soon be transplanted into patients after Harvard University genetically removed a virus inherent in the animal’s DNA which makes it incompatible with humans.

Scientists have spent decades trying to engineer pig tissue so that it would not be rejected by the human body.

All pig DNA carries a cancer virus which infects human cells and makes transplantation impossible.

But now Professor George Church and colleagues at Harvard have used a ground-breaking genetic editing technology called Crispr to snip away the virus’ genetic code in a pig embryos.

The embryos were then implanted into a sow and grew to be a healthy pigs, a feat described as a major milestone in the quest to use animal organs in humans.

Although several medical procedures already use sterilized pig tissues, such as heart valves in cardiac surgery and corneal transplants, doctors believe that the use of pig organs such as kidneys could end the donor shortage.

More than 1,000 people die in Britain each year waiting for a transplant.

British scientists said that the new breakthrough could help solve a ‘huge unmet need in modern medicine.’

Prof Ian McConnell, Emeritus Professor of Veterinary Science, University of Cambridge, said: “This work provides a promising  first step in the development of genetic strategies for creating  strains of pigs where the risk of transmission of retroviruses in vivo organ transplantation has been eliminated.

“It remains to be seen whether these results can be translated into a fully safe strategy in organ transplantation.”

The research was published in the journal Science.



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