Gene Editing, Cloning And Transplanting Pig Organs Into Humans

Organ transplants from animals to humans is not a reality yet, but with advances in gene editing techniques, the dawn of that day is getting closer and closer. One advance in transplanting pig organs concerns the scientific recreation of gene-edited piglets whose genetic makeup is suitable for human transplantation.

Gene-Edited Piglets May Help Fill the Gap Between Organ Supply And Demand

#1. Three Piglets

Gene Editing, Cloning And Transplanting Pig Organs Into Humans
Photo: Three Piglets

Experts had all but given up on this idea because retroviruses inherent in animal organs were known to cause diseases in humans. But now the game has changed because researchers have created gene-edited piglets minus these harmful viruses. According to Dr. David Klassen, chief medical officer at the United Network for Organ Sharing, a private, nonprofit organization that manages the nation’s transplant system, the following numbers speak for themselves. There were 33,600 organ transplants last year, and 116,800 patients on waiting lists.

In his own words: “There’s a big gap between organ supply and organ demand. If pig organs were shown to be safe and effective, they could be a real game change.”

Transplanting Pig Organs into Humans Is Not A New Idea

The idea of transplanting pig organs into humans dates back to the 1990s. Pigs seemed ideal organ donors  because their organs are compatible in size to those of humans and similar enough in function. Dr. Jay Fishman, co-director of the transplant program at Massachusetts General Hospital stated that back in 1998, he and his colleagues discovered that pig DNA contained hidden genes for dangerous viruses that were similar to those causing leukemia in monkeys. The danger of infection was feared to be too great, causing an end to the research. But many experts began to question how great the threat really was, and over the years, there seemed less cause for concern. Dr Fishman believes that “the risk to society is very low.”

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