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CRISPR-engineered pig organs may one day be suitable for human transplants

October 16, 2015
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Recently, scientists gathered at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington to talk about Crispr, a new method for editing genes. In the past couple of years, the technique has become so powerful and accessible that many experts are calling for limits on its potential uses — especially altering human embryos with changes that could be inherited by future generations.

Among the scientists describing recent advances was one of Crispr’s pioneers, George Church of Harvard Medical School. In the midst of his presentation, packed with the fine details of biochemistry and genetics, Church dropped a bombshell.

In a typical experiment, scientists use Crispr to alter a single gene. But in recent work with pig cells, Church and his colleagues used Crispr to alter 62 genes at once. The researchers hope that this achievement may someday make it possible to use pig organs for transplantation into humans.

Church’s experiment had its origins in the shortage of organs for transplants. Thousands of people die each year waiting for hearts, lungs and livers.

In the 1990s, researchers explored the possibility of using pig organs in humans, a technique known as xenotransplantation. Scientists hoped that pig organs could be cleansed of viruses and other pathogens that might harm their human hosts.

But that work stalled in 1998, when Jay Fishman and his colleagues discovered a bizarre new risk. Lurking in the pig’s DNA are viral genes.

Read full, original post: Editing of Pig DNA May Lead to More Organs for People

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