Pig organs might one day be transplanted into human patients, as researchers look to boost supplies of donor organs to meet presently overwhelming demands.
The US-based startup eGenesis has teamed up with the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston to test whether pig organs can be transplanted into monkeys.
If successful, such developments could pave the way towards beginning trials to see if pig organs can also be safely transplanted into human patients.
Researchers are using cutting-edge gene editing techniques to modify the organs before transplant to decrease the risk that they will be rejected by the donor's body.
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Pig organs might one day be transplanted into human patients, as researchers look to boost supplies of donor organs to meet presently overwhelming demands (file photo)
The demand for donor organs for transplantation vastly outweighs the supply.
In the US alone, for example, there are around 120 thousand individuals presently waiting for a life-saving organ transplant.
It has been suggested that the supply of human donor organs could be augmented by those taken from animals, or those grown independently in the lab.
Headed by Harvard University geneticist George Church, US-based firm eGenesis is working to adapt pig organs so that they might ultimately be made suitable for transplant into human patients.
Pig organs would be a good choice for transplantation into human patients, as their organs tend to be similar in size to that of our own.
One of the main challenges to cross-species organ transplant lies in suppressing the recipient's body's immune response that would otherwise attack the donated organ.
Professor Church and his colleagues are using the CRISPR gene editing technique to modify pig organs so they are less likely to be rejected.
Once modified, eGenesis researchers are testing the viability of the organs after transplanting them into monkeys in tests at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, in the US.
'What we’re doing is a necessary step,' says James Markmann, who is Massachusetts General's chief of transplant surgery as well as an eGenesis adviser.
'We’d be hard-pressed to put a modified organ into a human until it’s been tested in a large animal,' he added.
The exact nature of the current experiments — which organs are being transplanted, the species of the recipient experimental monkeys and the details of how the pigs are being raised — remains under wraps,