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

| | December 6, 2018
baboon
Image credit: Reuters
This article or excerpt is included in the GLP’s daily curated selection of ideologically diverse news, opinion and analysis of biotechnology innovation.

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. …

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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