Medical Milestone: Company’s Bold Mission to Transplant Pig Hearts into Infants

by / ⠀Featured News / July 22, 2023
Medical Milestone: Company's Bold Mission to Transplant Pig Hearts into Infants

Gene-Edited Pig Organs: A Revolutionary Solution to Organ Shortage

For decades, organ transplantation has been a lifesaving medical procedure, but the demand for viable organs far exceeds the available supply. To tackle this challenge, a groundbreaking field of research has emerged, focusing on gene-editing techniques to create organs that are less prone to rejection by the recipient’s immune system. Leading this innovative approach is eGenesis, a company utilizing CRISPR-Cas9 to develop pig organs for transplantation into human infants.

The Science Behind eGenesis’ Mission

eGenesis aims to enhance the compatibility of pig organs with human physiology by editing the pig genome. Using CRISPR-Cas9, the company inactivates the 50 to 70 copies of retroviruses in the genome, preventing retroviruses from replicating. This step is crucial in preventing the transmission of pig viruses to human recipients. Additionally, eGenesis researchers perform gene edits to eliminate pig genes that trigger harmful immune responses in humans. They replace these genes with seven human genes, reducing the likelihood of organ rejection by the recipient’s immune system. Overall, eGenesis creates organ donors with over 70 edits.

The Process of Creating Pig Organs for Human Infants

eGenesis performs these gene edits on pig fibroblasts, cells found in connective tissue. The edited DNA-containing nuclei of these cells are then placed into pig egg cells, which are fertilized with sperm. The resulting embryos are implanted into the uterus of an adult pig, eventually giving birth to cloned piglets via C-section. This cloning technology, also used to clone Dolly the sheep, enables the production of pig organs for transplantation.

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Ensuring the Safety of Pig Organs

eGenesis houses approximately 400 cloned pigs in a research facility in the Midwest. To ensure the safety of pig organs intended for human use, the company established a “clean” facility in early 2022. Anyone entering this facility must shower and wear protective gear to avoid introducing any infections to the pigs. The pigs in this center live in clean, controlled environments, with strict measures for feed, waste, and airflow. The pigs that are not used for transplantation are closely studied by the company to understand the impact of gene edits on the animals’ lives. So far, the results have been promising, with some pigs living over four years.

The Promise of Pig Organs for Human Transplantation

Pig organs hold tremendous promise for human transplantation, as they are similar in size to human organs, making them a suitable match for transplantation. Moreover, pig organs can be bred quickly and efficiently, offering a viable option for mass-producing organs for transplantation.

Challenges and Complications

Creating pig organs for human transplantation presents unique challenges. The size of organs is crucial, and surgeons must ensure an appropriate match between the donor’s heart size and the recipient’s. Transplanting pig hearts into baby baboons is complex, and the organs are expected to grow with the recipients over time. However, there have been surgical complications during some procedures, leading to the baboon’s death.

The Future of Pig Organs for Human Transplantation

Despite challenges, eGenesis remains committed to its mission of creating viable pig organs for human transplantation. The company’s gene-editing success holds great potential. The next steps include testing these organs in large animal models and eventually human trials. If successful, pig organs could revolutionize organ transplantation, providing a renewable and reliable organ source for patients in need.

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Conclusion

The shortage of viable organs for transplantation has led to exciting research in gene-edited pig organs. eGenesis is at the forefront of this transformative approach, using CRISPR-Cas9 to develop pig organs for human infants. The promise of pig organs for human transplantation is immense, and the company continues to work towards overcoming challenges and achieving groundbreaking success. With further advancements and human trials, pig organs may revolutionize the field of organ transplantation, saving countless lives.

FAQ

What is eGenesis?

eGenesis is a biotechnology company using gene-editing techniques to create pig organs with enhanced compatibility for human transplantation.

What is CRISPR-Cas9?

CRISPR-Cas9 is a gene-editing tool allowing precise edits to the DNA of living cells.

Why are pig organs used for human transplantation?

Pig organs are similar in size to human organs, making them a suitable match for transplantation. Additionally, pigs can be bred quickly, providing a feasible option for mass-producing organs.

What are the challenges of using pig organs for human transplantation?

Creating pig organs for human transplantation involves complex surgical procedures and ensuring appropriate size matches between donor and recipient organs.

What is the future of pig organs for human transplantation?

The next steps involve testing pig organs in large animal models and eventually human trials. If successful, pig organs could revolutionize organ transplantation, offering a renewable and reliable source of organs for patients.

First reported on Technology Review

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