April 22, 2009

Scientists Clone Pig For Human Organ Transplant

Scientists in South Korea have cloned a pig whose organs can be transplanted into humans.

Lim Gio-Bin lead the project that resulted in the birth of the cloned piglet to a surrogate mother at the National Institution of Animal Science in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province on April 3.

The piglet was designed to lack the "alpha-gal" gene that causes tissue reaction exhibited in immuno-rejection, which has been the primary struggle for human organ transplants in the past.

Lim told AFP that his team, which consists of scientists from four universities and two research institutes, took stem cells from smaller-than-normal pigs to clone "mini-pigs" with modified genes. These mini-pigs grow up to weigh just about 80 kilograms.

"Our team produced four cloned mini-pigs from about 100 surrogate pigs but only one male named Xeno survived."

Antibodies in human blood attack alpha 1, 3-galactose, or ``alpha gal,' thus making it impossible for human bodies to accept non-human transplants for a long period of time. By producing a pig without the "alpha-gal" gene, researchers hope to one day be able to create organs that would be safely transferable to humans.

"Through mating we will be able to produce many genetically modified mini-pigs whose organs are more suitable for xenotransplantation (transplantation between different species)," he said.

Their research was funded by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology. Research.

"Through our achievement South Korea became the second country in the world to clone such piglets after the United States," Lim said.

"I believe our methods are slightly better. Xeno will help us accumulate technology and resources, which can be used to produce many mini-pigs of good quality."