Pig-to-human organ transplants could soon be a reality

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Pigs have always been eyed as potential vessels for organ cultivation, as the size and structure of their organs makes them the most viable - theoretically - for transplantation to humans.

The research team, working for biomedical start-up Egenesis, announced in the journal Science that it had produced the piglets with inactivated porcine endogenous retrovirus, known as Perv.

Transplants from pigs could offer a new potentially life-saving alternative for patients diagnosed with organ failure and no other viable treatment options.

This makes it possible for organs from pigs to be transplanted into humans in the future. More than 117,000 people are on the waiting list for organ transplants in the US, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Pigs are particularly promising for xenotransplantation as their organs are a similar size to humans', and the animals can be bred in large numbers.

The first form of xenotransplantation - using animal blood to transfuse humans was first attempted in the 17th century, though as surgeon David Cooper put it in a 2012 review paper, "perhaps not surprisingly, the results were mixed".

This isn't the first time this year that humans and pigs have been forced together by science, in order to further the prospects for organ donation.

The edited cells were then cloned and added to eggs, to enable them to develop into embryos. Pigs are the biggest animals that have undergone CRISPR, he says, and he wants to see what happens when they are allowed to "grow to a ripe old age" of over 20.

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Pigs have always been seen as a viable source for organ transplants to humans because their organs are similar in size. The entire process of transplant saves many lives, but every time, there is a shortage of organs as people are not actually willing to donate their organs.

These steps "are probably more challenging" than removing the dormant infections, said Yang.

While the latest research was able to remove the threat of the pig virus, there are still other concerns in transferring pig organs into humans.

The oldest pigs are almost 5 months old, or adolescents; 15 remain alive. Earlier, we demonstrated the feasibility of inactivating PERV activity in an immortalized pig cell line. They used the gene editing tool CRISPR to deactivate all 25 genomic sites.

He has also founded a company, in the hope of selling the genetically altered pig organs.

Genetics expert Professor Darren Griffin, from the University of Kent, said: "This represents a significant step forward towards the possibility of making xenotransplantation a reality".

Pigs are already used in the xenotransplantation of the heart valves or of the pancreas.

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