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Baboons receive pig kidneys

8 December 2003
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 237

US researchers have managed to transplant kidneys from genetically modified pigs into baboons, a development that could pave the way for animal-to-human organ transplants, Nature magazine reports. Scientists at the Massachusetts General Hospital, US, used kidneys from pigs that have been genetically altered to reduce rejection by the human and monkey immune systems. They transplanted pig kidneys into eight baboons, which enabled them to survive for up to 81 days, compared to around 30 days for kidneys from non-genetically altered pigs.

The use of animal organs for human transplants (xenotransplantation) has been suggested as a way to overcome the massive shortage of donated organs for human patients. But there are many technical obstacles to overcome with this approach, including the rejection of foreign tissue by the body's immune system. To address this problem, researchers have bred miniature pigs whose body cells lack a key sugar molecule, called alpha-1,3-galactose, which normally triggers an aggressive immune response. The pigs, produced by US company Immerge BioTherapeutics, lack a gene called GGTA1, which makes a protein that normally adds the sugar molecules to the outside of the cell. In addition, the size of the miniature pigs' organs is closer to that of humans than organs from ordinary-sized pigs.

The latest results, presented by team leader David Sachs at the International Xenotransplantation Congress in Glasgow earlier this year, provide evidence that tissue rejection can be overcome. Eighty-one days is apparently the longest that researchers have managed to extend a baboon's life using a pig organ. But there are still other problems to overcome, reports Nature, such as the tiny blood clots that killed some of the baboons. There are also other safety and ethical issues to address before researchers can consider human xenotransplantation trials, including the concern that pig organs could transfer new viruses to human patients.

Engineered pig organs survive in monkeys
Nature |  8 December 2003
2 November 2015 - by Anna Smajdor and Guy Hardwick 
The new gene-editing technique CRISPR/Cas9 could remove one of the toughest barriers to the transplantation of pig organs to humans. And it has been suggested that the production of genetically modified (GM) pig organs could end the anguish of those waiting for suitable donors. But is it really a panacea?
27 June 2011 - by Dr Rebecca Robey 
Scientists in Japan have reported the production of mice that have rat's organs. They suggest that 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...
15 July 2005 - by BioNews 
A Korean biotech company has announced that it has succeeded in cloning a pig containing human genes, bringing them a step closer to transplanting pig organs into humans. Dr Park Kwang-wook and his team at Mgenbio produced the world's first cloned pig with the human HLA-G gene, an immunity gene...
20 January 2003 - by BioNews 
A miniature piglet lacking both copies of a gene that would cause its organs to be rejected if transplanted into humans has been cloned by a US-based company. While pigs that have had these genes 'knocked-out' have been cloned before, the organs of the miniature pig are similar in size...
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