The successful transplantation of pig organs into humans has moved a significant step nearer with one of the most hard clinical obstacles reportedly overcome. The study has shown that they can produce retrovirus-free piglets but moving onto pig organ donation is another step.
"This research represents an important advance in addressing safety concerns about cross-species viral transmission", said co-author and eGenesis chief scientific officer, Luhan Yang. But for now, Church, Yang, and their team think their new pigs may "serve as a foundation pig strain, which can be further engineered to provide safe and effective organ and tissue resources for xenotransplantation".
Major religious groups have weighed in, generally concluding that pig organs are acceptable for life-saving transplants, noted Dr Jay Fishman, co-director of the transplant programme at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Scientists began pursuing the idea of pig organs for transplant in the 1990s.
The general population of adults was about evenly divided on the use of gene editing in their children, Pew said, with 50 percent rejecting it and 48 percent choosing the procedure.
But the lead researcher in the study told The New York Times the first transplants could happen within two years.
"There's a big gap between organ supply and organ demand", he said.
The availability of organs for transplant is a matter of life and death for thousands of patients. To make bona fide PERV-free porncines, they needed to use genetically normal cells taken from a living pig - in the end they applied CRISPR to cells derived from the connective tissue of fetal pigs. The groundbreaking successful use of the CRISPR-Cas9 in human embryos opens the door to eventually protecting future generations from hereditary illnesses, according to research published in the August 2 issue of the medical journal Nature.
Now though, the Harvard team has used CRISPR gene editing to create dozens of apparently healthy pigs with no trace of PERV genes.
Professor Ian McConnell, an expert in the field from Cambridge University, said the research was a "promising first step".
Pig heart valves are already routinely transplanted into patients.