"The scientists successfully rid 37 pigs of viruses hiding in their DNA, overcoming one of the big barriers to transplanting pig organs to people", the BBC reports. The pig pancreas cells can be transplanted using a sheath to prevent the immune system from attacking it. Pig skin could also be used as skin grafts among burn patients.
A scientific advance using genetically edited piglets could lower the fatality rate and make using pig organs, similar to our own, a common practice.
Professor Church initially studied the initial hazards of using pigs' DNA, including viral infections and rejection by the human body, but found the former could be solved with genetic modification.
But the researchers were able to delete the 25 pervs using a revolutionary gene editing technique known as Crispr-Cas9, which has been likened to the "find and replace" command of word-processing.
The presence of PERVs in pigs brought more than a billion dollars' worth of pharmaceutical industry investments in developing xenotransplant methods to a standstill by the early 2000s, according to the study.
Though more research is needed, they believe the "PERV-inactivated pig" can serve as a foundation strain that might be further engineered to "provide safe and effective organ and tissue resources" for transplantation into humans. Then the genetic material was inserted and the egg was allowed to develop into an embryo.
Many people with failing hearts, livers and kidneys are saved by donated organs from people who have died (or even some who are still living, in the case of kidneys), but there are not enough to go round. In a study of journal Science, Luhan Yang, a biologist along with her team has implanted the PERV free embryos and the fetuses did not get infected by te virus and the piglets are few of PERV.
Fears that pig organs would infect humans with weird retroviruses brought the research to a halt.
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.
Many patients may prefer a human organ, Cooper acknowledged, but that is not always possible.
The scientists grew clone cells of these edited cells but were unable to cultivate one with greater than 90% of the PERVs deleted. Tector said transplant patients could take anti-retroviral drugs, just as they take immune-suppressing drugs, to kill the viruses.
After a thorough antivirus scan, de-bugged pigs are a step closer to growing organs for us. The challenge is to identify which pig genes are necessary and sufficient to change so that the animals' organs have a shot at working in people.