News Worms
News Worms


Scientists edit genetically edit viral infections from piglets

Scientists edit genetically edit viral infections from piglets

Gene editing techniques could prove useful for removing virus genes from the pig genome, paving the way for pig-to- human transplants, yet efforts have so far only been successfully demonstrated in cell lines, not live animals.

A scientific breakthrough means we are another step closer to starting transplants of pig organs to humans.

As STAT reports, out of 37 piglets, all were born without retroviruses.

However, there's no way those pig organs could actually be transplanted just yet, Ross says.

EGenesis Inc is a United States biotech firm working on trying to make animal-to-human organ transplant safe and effective.

The idea of solving the human organ shortage with pigs has tantalized surgeons for decades.

Previous year in the US, there were 33,600 organ transplants with another 116,800 on waiting lists, according to the US Health Resources and Services Administration.

Pigs show potential as organ donors for humans as their organs are similar in size and function and they can be bred in large numbers. There are around 25 PERV strains, the active retrovirus in pigs. For one thing, tissue from a different human-let alone a different animal-is enough to freak out our immune systems and cause them to attack.

"These are the first Perv-free pigs", Dr Luhan Yang, one of the researchers from Harvard University and the spinout company eGenesis, told the BBC News website. The supply is way below the demand and the gap is only expected to grow wider. And regulators require stringent tests in lab primates before a single patient could get a CRISPR'd pig organ; that will take years.

The difference is unlike our version of the virus, PERV can still pop out of its cosy spot and infect other cells.

According to the UNOS web site, there were 33,611 organ transplants in 2016 and 116,800 patients on waiting lists. "Pigs' organs are about the same size as human organs, so it's actually ideal for transplantations". But Church and his colleagues ended up with 15 living piglets, the oldest now 4 months old.

We still have a long way to go before we see the first porcine kidneys giving a renal failure patient a new lease on life, but being able to cut out a risky virus could make it a reality sooner than we think. Just last week, USA scientists were able to demonstrate they could successfully CRISPR out a faulty heart gene mutation in human embryos.

Meanwhile Ian McConnell, from the University of Cambridge, said: "The use of human organs for transplantation only meets a small percentage of the total and growing number of individuals in desperate need of organ transplantation". In previous work, researchers have used these animals for transplanting heart valves and pancreas.

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