CRISPR Gene Editing Could Make Pig Organ Donors a Reality

In Science
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has been making waves for the past year for its . And it could eventually become a tool that lets pigs serve as organ donors for humans following a milestone advance reported by .

The company announced Thursday that it had successfully birthed piglets that didn’t carry porcine endogenous retroviruses (PERVs), pathogens that are harmless in pigs but can be deadly for humans, in a . This could theoretically make “xenotransplantation” (i.e., the transfer of organs from animals to humans) a safe option, especially considering the complementary biology that certain pig organs have with their homo sapien counterparts.

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“This is the first publication to report on PERV-free pig production,” said Luhan Yang, co-founder and chief scientific officer at eGenesis, in a statement. “This research represents an important advance in addressing safety concerns about cross-species viral transmission. Our team will further engineer the PERV-free pig strain to deliver safe and effective xenotransplantation.”

The eGenesis scientists used the CRISPR-Cas9 version of the genome editing tech to slice off the PERV-causing genes in porcine embryos.

This is far from the first time that CRISPR has made a splash in the life sciences. Earlier this month, U.S. scientists confirmed that they’d used CRISPR—which essentially acts as a molecular shear that can cut off targeted DNA sequences and replace them with others—to in order to stop a genetic disease’s progression into offspring.

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