A new study discovered a gene-editing method that could make pig organs suitable for humans transplants. Scientists used a technique called CRISPR that alters the DNA of pig cells in order to make them a better match for humans. The research was published in the journal Science.
“It’s the most extreme example to date of the precise yet widespread genetic changes possible through CRISPR. It’s also raising hopes that the technology can finally render pig organs fit for human bodies,” as stated in the Science journal.
George Church, an American geneticist, molecular engineer and chemist, along with his colleagues, used the CRISPR method. It works like a molecular scissors that can trim selected parts of a genome. By applying this method to pig organs, researchers were able to remove their native infections and viruses contained in their DNA. These infections do not harm the pig but prevented its organs from being used in humans.
Scientists used this method in early pig embryos and removed 62 copies of Porcine Endogenous Retroviruses (PERVs). PERVs could be very risky in human transplant recipients, at least in the lab. In the results, the researchers realized that the modified pig cells did not easily pass the PERVs to human cells, however, there was still a small amount of transmission.
This study shows that CRISPR multiplex ability can be as high as 62 percent and demonstrates the possibility that PERVs can be inactivated for clinical application to the transmission of the harmed cells to xenotransplantation.
“One is it set a record for CRISPR or for any genetic modification of an animal, and it took away what was considered the most perplexing problem to be solved in the xenotransplantation field. With immune tolerance, that completely changes the landscape as well. These two things, immune tolerance and now getting rid of all retroviruses, means we have a clear path,” Professor Church stated, as BBC News reported.