CRISPR piglets bring hope to human organ transplant shortage
Every year, people with compromised organs such as hearts, livers, and kidneys are saved by organs donated by deceased people. But there are far too many people in need of organs and the organ transplant waitlist is ever-growing. Several patients die while waiting for a match. Many attempts have been made to look for alternatives but now there’s hope because of gene editing.
Human organs and pig organs function in the same manner and are also of the same size. But the transplant of pig organs to humans has always posed quite a challenge for most researchers. However, a new study published in Science has given hope to all those waiting for organ donations. Led by the biotech firm eGenesis, the study involved using the CRISPR gene-editing technology to deactivate harmful viruses in the DNA of piglets. The technology was used to cut out a porcine endogenous retrovirus (PERV) typically found in pigs. The virus-free genetic material was then implanted into surrogate mother sows that gave birth to pig clones. These piglets are the first to be free of PERV and this is considered to be huge progress for xenotransplantation, where organs or tissues are transplanted between members of different species.
Plans to make pigs with altered genes and making them more immunologically similar to humans are already in progress. However, there are other risks that need to be studied and addressed since many other viruses exist in the pig genome that could get transmitted to humans.
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