Fri, Feb 02, 2007 - Page 2 News List

Local researchers engineer pigs for organ transplants


Local scientists have succeeded in genetically engineering pigs with organs that are unlikely to be rejected by humans, paving the way for the animals to serve as a source of organs for transplant into human bodies, a local researcher said yesterday.

Tu Chin-fu (杜清富), chief of the Division of Biotechnology at the Animal Technology Institute Taiwan, said his research team had developed pigs which carry special genes which make their organs more readily accepted by the human body.

Noting that thousands of people around the world who need organ transplants die before suitable donors can be found every year, Tu said xenotransplantation could be a viable alternative.

Pigs, like baboons and chimpanzees, share biological similarities with humans.

However, unlike baboons and chimpanzees, pigs are not protected by laws, and therefore are a promising source of organs for human beings, Tu said.

One of the major obstacles in transplanting organs between different species is the high chance of rejection, which often leads to the transplanted organ failing in its new host body.

However, Tu said, his team had succeeded in transplanting six genes which help to prevent rejection into the genome of the pigs.

During a test to determine the viability of the hybrid pigs as organ donors, Tu said his team circulated human blood in kidneys and lungs removed from the pigs and found that the organs worked quite well.

The success of the experiment with pig organs has placed his team at the forefront of this field, Tu said.

The next step, Tu said, would be to mass produce pigs that carry all six of the rejection-fighting genes for use as an organ bank.

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