Genetic modification could make it possible for us to get new organs from farm animals.
A surprising new study published in the journal Science suggests that we could be closer to using genetically modified pig organs as human transplants than we thought.
A gene editing method known as CRISPR could be used to alter the DNA of pig cells to make them a good match for humans, and they used their study to address concerns about whether or not the body would reject the organ and also if it would make it susceptible to infections, according to a BBC report.
If these concerns are met and it could be shown to be a viable method, it would have a huge impact on the medical community, as a shortage of human donor organs is one of the biggest problems out there. There simply aren’t enough to go around, so people who, say, need a new liver have to wait for years for a liver that may never come, and will often die in that time frame. If scientists could figure out this, it would mean the organs could practically be farmed.
It will take years of research before genetically modified pigs could be bred in this fashion, but scientists say it’s looking more possible than ever.
What is CRISPR? It’s a new tool scsientists used to play around with DNA, the genetic code that hard wires everything about us.
Professor George Church of Harvard University and his colleagues were able to inactivate a retrovirus that is present in pig cells, according to the report.
The process of using animal organs in humans is called xenotransplantation, and Church believes this has a lot of promise for countless people.
Still, there are some skeptics. Some argue that even if it is shown to be a safe way to grow organs, one would need to consider cultural and societal concerns if pig organs are made widely available for human transplanation.