CRISPR-startup transplant pig organs to monkeys, in order to understand how it is safe for people

Company eGenesis, engaged in editing of genes, conducting experiments to solve the problem of the critical shortage of human organs available for transplantation. In 2017, the Harvard geneticist George Church predicted that pig organs to be transplanted genes edited people a couple of years - perhaps even a year.

CRISPR-startup transplant pig organs to monkeys, in order to understand how it is safe for people

"I was wrong" now recognizes the Church.

His startup eGenesis announced its ambitious plans to use the editing CRISPR gene technology to modify pigs so that their organs can be safely transplanted into humans without rejection. Thus one could solve the problem of the critical shortage of human organs available for transplant.

However, such tests have not been conducted in humans. Instead, the company is currently testing pig organs in monkeys in Boston. Experiments conducted by the Chief Surgeon General Hospital James Markmann.

Is it possible to transplant human organs of pigs?

"What we are doing is a necessary step," says Markmann. "It would be difficult to put the modified organ in the human without experiencing it on the big animal."

Neither Markmann nor eGenesis does not describe in detail what authorities investigated or what kinds of monkeys involved in the experiments, which is said to include a variety of high-tech pig organs that were ever created by surgeons.

For decades, doctors have dreamed use pigs to address the shortage of organs by transplanting their kidneys, heart, lungs, and even human patients to replace organs that have ceased to work. Now more than 100 000 people in the US are in the queue for a transplant. Over the past few years, scientists have reached a major turning point in "xenotransplantation". Scientists from the National Institutes of Health was able to maintain the beating of pig hearts in baboons (together with its own monkey heart) for about two years. At the end of last year, German surgeons have reported that some baboons survived for about six months after their hearts were replaced by pigs.

These experiments were conducted using pigs genetically modified Rivivicor, subsidiary of United Therapeutics. In animals, there are genetic changes that should prevent the immediate rejection of human organs, blood clots stop and compensate for other types of immune attack.

Thanks to these scientific advances, transplant surgeons are now discussing, but when it will be possible to take the risk and carry out the operation on a man.

"We already have a Chevy. Perhaps even BMW. Do we need to wait for Ferrari? There will come a time when you just want to ride, "says Devin Eckhoff, director of transplantation at the University of Alabama Medical School in Birmingham.

However, before the bodies of pigs can be tested in humans to solve some key problems. The results with monkeys have not been very consistent. Regulatory authorities have not publicly stated the conditions under which they will agree to testing in humans, and the debate under way about how much should be modified pigs.

Company Church - eGenesis - gained notoriety, forcing CRISP role in the creation of pigs with multiple genetic modifications. In 2015, co-founder and chief scientist Yang Lujan shown it can make 62 changes immediately to deactivate viruses that are naturally hidden in the genome of the pig. In addition, Yang said that her company has now introduced "double-digit" number of genes editing (by means of both cutting and adding) to reduce the chance of organ rejection by the immune system. These changes are likely to be similar to those established Revivicor. Young calls his pigs, "the most advanced" of genetically modified animals in the world.

In 2017, speaking to the Carnegie Institute, Church declared that "we hope to start transplants in humans within a year."

But these terms are unrealistic. Young believes that the largest remaining obstacle to the entire region will achieve consistent results transplantation from pigs to monkeys. Although some baboons lived for months with the bodies of pigs, other animals die soon. Scientists do not fully understand why. "We feel that there is some biological reason for it," says Young. "We understand and are trying to fix it."

This requires a huge amount of pig organs. Young says that eGenesis produced more than 100 pigs in the United States, and its Chinese partner Qihan Biotech, based in Hangzhou, raised hundreds of experimenting with different genetic alterations. The rules do not allow you to move pigs or their agencies between the two countries.

"I think we learn a lot more when several transplanted organs with the same modifications and see how they behave," says Markmann.

When it comes to the use of animals, such as pigs and baboons, companies are trying to be as careful. They do not say, which contains pig. In an interview with Markmann I would not say the word "monkey", he would say "large animal". Defenders of animal rights PETA oppose the research because "the pig is an individual, and not spare parts." It remains also debate about how much genetic change we need in fact. Mohyuddin Muhammad, director of cardiac xenotransplantation program at the School of Medicine at the University of Maryland, said that the elimination of viral genes is unnecessary and can harm the animals, lead to undesirable consequences. Instead, the ideal would be to edit the eight or nine genes, and grow the pig with a lot of usable organs - rather than to grow a pig for a heart transplant, and another for the sake of the kidneys. Other organs should not be mixed.

Markmann says previously published experiments on monkeys and inspire his own work in his optimism: genetically modified pigs really will be a valuable source of organs for humans.

"The fact that the pig organs live six to twelve months or a few years, it is extremely good, and says that this is possible. Everyone understands that we are at a critical moment. "

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