Baboons given heart transplants from genetically engineered pigs—humans could be next

baboon
Image credit: Reuters

In four adjacent enclosures transplantation researcher Bruno Reichart kept four happy baboons. … Most importantly, he says, they were healthy and normal—which is astonishing, given the fact that the hearts beating life in their chests were anything but normal for a baboon.

All four of the baboons that lived in Reichart’s lab at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich had their original hearts surgically replaced with ones from genetically engineered pigs. …

Despite the fact monkeys are our evolutionary cousins and can stand in for us fairly well in experiments, nonhuman primates make for poor organ donors. … But there is one animal that is already bred and raised en masse, is easy to genetically edit and has organs eerily similar to an adult human’s: the domestic pig. …

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But even though humans can give their hearts to compatible persons with little more than a side of immunosuppressants, cross-species transplantation is not so straightforward. …

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Two important developments pumped hope into the field over the past few years: First, researchers such as geneticist Luhan Yang, co-founder of life sciences company eGenesis, began using the gene-editing tool CRISPR–Cas9 to remove parts of the pig genome that might harm humans or provoke an immune response. …

Then in 2016 Mohiuddin’s lab took this further by showing baboons could survive with a genetically engineered pig heart implanted into their abdomens for nearly 1,000 days—if the baboon was on a certain cocktail of immunosuppressants.

Read full, original post: Pig Hearts Successfully Transplanted into Baboons for First Time

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