Sabato, 23 Settembre, 2017

Jumping Genes Inactivated with CRISPR in Pigs

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                                                          0 Science 0
Pamela Guccione | 11 Agosto, 2017, 18:55

The reality of pigs becoming human organ donors has moved a step closer after a breakthrough study successfully removed potentially hazardous viruses from the animals' DNA.

The discovery offers hope to the 6,500 people who are now on the United Kingdom transplant waiting list.

The pig genome, however, includes porcine endogenous retroviruses (PERVs), which can be passed on to other cells when cultured together.

Researchers have been able to create genetically modified piglets that are cleaned of the viruses that could causes diseases in humans.

The Harvard University geneticists were led by George Church and Luhan Yang, both early developers of CRISPR - they postulated CRISPR could make precise, genome-wide changes to pig cells, and in 2015 showed it could indeed could knock out PERV genes at all 62 sites in a pig genome.

Those embryos were implanted into sows in China and became 37 "designer" piglets, that were all 100% virus-free.

Now they've announced their PERV-free embryos are healthy PERV-free piglets, the oldest being 4 months old.


But experts say that this experiment is a big and promising first step.

In January, scientists created a human-pig chimera (an embryo that essentially combines the cells from a human with that of a pig).

"The use of human organs for transplantation only meets a small percentage of the total and growing number of individuals in desperate need of organ transplantation".

The eGenesis team, having produced the first piglets free of active PERVs, is working toward combining the safety benefits of PERV-free pigs with additional gene editing addressing immunological response to increase organ immune and functional compatibilities. The creation of those clean little porkers, reported Thursday in Science, is progress toward using pigs as human organ donors, the researchers say. Also the numbers needed for the transplants to meet the waiting lists is far less than the number of pigs killed each year for food. They have made a possibility that the animal organs can be made compatible in humans with the use of a controversial technology, known as CRISPR- Cas9 Gene Editing. The retroviruses don't harm pigs, but would make xenotransplants, cross-species transplants, impossible.

Gene editing has been generating plenty of buzz recently.

Scientists began pursuing the idea of pig organs for transplant in the 1990s. As a result, Church had wondered if they play an essential role in the pig's survival and whether the animals could develop properly without them.

Yang, was so determined in using the Gene Editing to cater various problems and since years, she has been trying to solve the shortage of organs.

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