Home pageNews of ScienceGenetically modified pigs for human organs

Genetically modified pigs for human organs

Date: 2.11.2007 

 

There are health situations when patients need to have some organ transplanted. It is very difficult operation and there are real ethic problems. British scientists could be breeding genetically modified pigs in two years that would offer hope to transplant patients.

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The research team led by Professor Robert Winston wants to breed genetically modified animals with organs that would not be rejected after transplantation into men or women. The animals would carry a ready supply of hearts, kidneys, livers and other organs for transplant into desperately ill humans. Although the work is still in the early stages, Winston is confident of producing the first designer pigs in two years. Pigs are used as their hearts are similar to human ones in shape, size and structure.

 

More than 9,000 British people are waiting for a transplant. This includes almost 100 who need a new heart, 279 waiting for lungs, more than 300 in need of a liver and almost 6,500 looking for kidneys. Co-researcher Dr Anthony Warrens said: "There is a massive shortage of organs for transplantation."

 

Modified pigs are created by carrying genes which alter key molecules on the surface of organs, hiding their origin from the human immune system. Such hearts, lugs, kidneys and other organs could also be used to test new medicines, cutting the risk of dangerous reactions. However, the biggest benefit is likely to be in transplants.

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To potential criticism about the use of big animals in research, Winston said:"If we broadly as a society agree that it is fundamentally ethical to use large animals as a food source, then surely you could argue it is better to use them to save lives? We are talking about a huge burden of human misery and anything that can circumvent that is potentially useful."

 

Addressing potential criticism about the use of animals in research, Lord Winston said: "If we broadly as a society agree that it is fundamentally ethical to use large animals as a food source, then surely you could argue it is better to use them to save lives?" In early experiments on mice, the London researchers, working with experts from California, introduced test genes into mice. They then moved on to pigs and have altered the sperm of six pigs by inserting a gene into their testicles. In the piglets, these genes could alter molecules on the surface of organs that would otherwise lead to them being recognized as "foreign" by the human body. Organs could later be harvested for transplant.

 

Sources:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=134704&in_page_id=1770

http://www.checkbiotech.org/green_News_Genetics.aspx?Name=genetics&infoId=15611

 

 

 

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