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King's College London - Health: More than a medical matter

Stem cells, pigs and replacement organs

27 June 2011

By Dr Rebecca Robey

Appeared in BioNews 613

Scientists in Japan have reported the production of mice that have rat's organs. They suggest one day this technique could be used to grow spare human organs in another species such as pigs, easing organ shortages and reducing long waiting times for transplants.

The researchers genetically engineered mice so that they developed without a pancreas, an organ that produces hormones such as insulin, which is deregulated in individuals with diabetes. They then took iPS cells from rats and injected them in to blastocysts from the genetically modified mice. They found that the resulting mice developed with pancreases formed almost entirely from the rat iPS cells. The pancreases appeared to be functional and the mice showed no signs of diabetes.

Professor Hiromitsu Nakauchi, director of the centre for stem cell biology and regenerative medicine at the University of Tokyo presented the study at the annual conference of the European Society of Human Genetics, held in the Netherlands. He said: 'The technique, called blastocyst complementation, provides us with a novel approach for organ supply. We have successfully tried it between mice and rats'.

The research team also reported the production of pigs that could generate human blood by injecting human blood stem cells in to pig embryos. Professor Nakauchi said: 'Our ultimate goal is to generate human organs from iPS cells'.

iPS cells are adult cells that have been engineered to behave like embryonic stem cells and can form any cell type in the body. In theory, therefore, in the case of a non-urgent transplant such as a kidney transplant, the technique could be used to grow an organ from iPS cells formed using the patient's own cells. This may reduce the risk of the transplant being detected as 'foreign' and rejected by the body's immune system.

Professor Chris Mason, chair of regenerative medicine at University College London, told the Telegraph that the technique 'could be a potential way forward' but that it was 'a very long shot requiring sustained resources and major finance for its testing and development'. He added: 'There is a long way to go before it could result in useable transplants, but it is an exciting vision'.


The Scientist | 21 June 2011
Daily Telegraph | 19 June 2011
Daily Mail | 21 June 2011
Fox News | 20 June 2011


24 June 2013 - by Sarah Guy 
Researchers in Japan are one step closer to being able to implant human induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells into an animal embryo. Their aim is to grow a fully-grown human pancreas in an animal, a pig, and ultimately harvest and transplant such organs into patients... [Read More]
16 January 2012 - by Ayesha Jadoon 
'Re-training' immune cells in people with type 1 diabetes reduces the amount of insulin they need to inject, according to a results from a small clinical trial... [Read More]
10 October 2011 - by George Frodsham 
Scientists have found a new method of suppressing the automatic rejection of donated kidneys in transplant patients, by using the donor's stem cells. In a small trial carried out at Stanford University, California, eight out of 12 patients were able to stop taking anti-rejection drugs, which are usually a lifelong necessity, following this treatment.... [Read More]
18 July 2011 - by Dr Rebecca Robey 
Canadian scientists have identified a master stem cell that is capable of becoming any of the different types of cell found in blood. The discovery offers hope of alternative treatments for people who would normally require bone marrow transplants to replenish their blood supply, for example those with cancer or blood disorders... [Read More]

18 April 2011 - by Dr Rosie Morley 
Scientists at Edinburgh University have grown kidney structures in the laboratory in a step they hope will lead to organs being grown for transplant patients from their own stem cells... [Read More]
10 August 2009 - by Rosie Beauchamp 
A study published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reported that scientists in Tokyo have successfully grow teeth in mice using stem cells... [Read More]
07 June 2009 - by Heidi Colleran 
A Chinese research team has brought the quest for a genetically modified pig, capable of providing viable organs for transplant patients, a step closer. Scientists at the Shanghai Institute of Biochemistry and Cell Biology (SIBCB) have succeeded in creating the first pig stem cells in the laboratory, the Journal of Molecular and Cell Biology reports. These cells could be used to create 'transgenic' pigs, which have been genetically altered so that their organs would not be rejected by the hum... [Read More]
21 April 2008 - by Dr Jess Buxton 
The US Department of Defense has announced a five year program to develop new stem-cell based treatments for service members disfigured from war-time injuries. The new Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine (AFIRM) will explore the use of a patient's own stem cells to grow replacement... [Read More]
16 December 2004 - by BioNews 
A clinical trial using bone marrow stem cells to treat irreversible liver damage has started in Japan, New Scientist magazine reports. Scientists at Yamaguchi University began the trial after showing that bone marrow stem cell transplants can partly reverse serious liver damage in mice. A similar trial using bone marrow... [Read More]

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