Pig-to-Human Transplants Move Closer; GENETICS: Control of Gene Governing Immune System's Rejection Overcomes a Major Hurdle in Technology

Article excerpt

PIG-TO-HUMAN transplants moved a step closer yesterday after scientists produced five cloned piglets genetically-modified to provide organs for human patients.

Scottish-based firm PPL Therapeutics said it had produced five healthy "knock-out" piglets, born on Christmas Day. They are so-called as a gene that causes the human immune system to reject pig organs in minutes of transplantation has been "knocked out" of their genetic make-up.

Scientists at PPL, which was behind the cloning of Dolly the sheep, have found a way to inactivate the alpha 1,3 galactosyl transferase gene.

The piglets, Noel, Angel, Star, Joy and Mary, were born at PPL's US subsidiary in Virginia and the company said it thought they were the world's first cloned knock-out pigs.

Their birth is a major step towards successful xenotransplantation - the transfer of cells or organs from one species to another, the firm said.

"With one of the major technical hurdles and scientific risks overcome, the promise of xenotransplantation is now a reality, with potential to revolutionise the transplant industry, " said Alan Colman, PPL research director.

The technology could also be extended to include the potential transplant of cells to patients suffering from diseases such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and diabetes, PPL said. …