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LATEST UPDATES » Vol 21, No 09, September 2017 – Infectious Diseases       » Breakthrough in pig-to-human organ transplant       » Silk-based wearable body sensors developed by Tsinghua researchers       » First AI-assisted treatment center in Hefei city       » Breakthrough immunotherapy for Chronic Hepatitis B virus infection       » First in Asia - Launch of multi-centre lung cancer research platform       » NUS establishes additive manufacturing facilities for biomedical applications      
EYE ON CHINA
Breakthrough in pig-to-human organ transplant

An international team of scientists have cloned genetically modified piglets that may prove a safe source of organs for transplants into humans.

The 15 black-headed piglets, born in a lab in southwest China’s Yunnan Province, do not carry the active infectious viral gene which has impeded the process of pig-to-human transplantation for more than a decade, said Chinese members of an international research team who published their results in Science.

Pigs have porcine endogenous retroviruses (PERVs) embedded in their genome. These viruses are able to jump from a pig cell to a human when mixed in the lab. The viruses can then be passed to fresh human cells from the infected one.

This standing block was cleared when the scientists used a gene-editing technique, known as CRISPR, to inactivate the PERVs.

Geneticist Luhan Yang and her colleagues at the American biotech startup eGenesis are behind the breakthrough.

Yang, co-founder and chief scientific officer of eGenesis, joined researchers from several Chinese universities and Aarhus University from Denmark to pen the study published on 10 August.

With modified genes, the scientists created PERV-inactivated pig embryos and transferred them into surrogate sows to produce clones, in the same fashion that Dolly the sheep was created.

Earlier this year, 37 such clones were produced by 17 sows in Yunnan Agricultural University. Till August, 15 are still alive with ages ranging from one to four months.

The next step would be using gene editing to make pig organs less prone to attack by their human recipients’ immune systems, which has been another standing obstacle in the research.

George Church, Harvard geneticist and another eGenesis co-founder, called the clones a milestone in xenotransplantation as the most important safety issue had been solved.

Xenotransplantation means using animal living cells, tissues or organs in people to bridge the shortfall in available human organs.

In China alone, more than 300,000 patients are waiting for organ transplants but fewer than 10,000 surgeries are performed each year. The country witnessed a surge of volunteer organ donors in recent years but that is still far to meet the need.

Xenotransplantation remains controversial. The WHO says while animals are a potential source of high quality and readily available live organs, xenotransplantation carries risks, especially the spread of known or unknown diseases.

Source: Xinhua; edited by APBN

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APBN Editorial Calendar 2017
January:
Healthcare Focus: LUNGS
February:
War on CANCER
March:
Get to Know TCM
April:
Diabetes: The Big Picture
May:
The Piece of Your Mind - Brain Health/Science
June:
Advocacies in Support of Rare Disease Patients
July:
Food Science & Technology
August:
Eye – the Window to your Soul
September:
Infectious Diseases
October:
No. 1 Killer — Heart Diseases
November:
Diseases threatening our Children
December:
Skin Diseases/Allergic Reactions
Editorial calendar is subjected to changes.
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