China to host first pigs for animal-to-human organ transplants

14:30, March 25, 2011      

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The first batch of genetically modified (GM) pigs will be born in the second half of 2011. These pigs are expected to provide suitable organs for transplant into human bodies and to ease the nation's shortage of transplant organs, genetic engineering experts in eastern China's Nanjing recently announced.

Researchers at the Nanjing Medical University said that pig-to-human heterografts are expected to undergo clinical trials within two to three years, and the exact time needed depends on the type of organs concerned.

"We expect to conduct clinical trials for pig corneas and skin first, probably within two years. Major organs, like the heart, kidney or liver; may take up to five years," Dai Yifan, lead researcher of the project, said in an interview with the Xinhua News Agency.

Dai said that pig organs need to be genetically altered to be compatible with human bodies, and there should be strict hygiene supervision to ensure they enter the human body bacteria free.

At the same time, some doctors have expressed worries that theoretical feasibility does not necessarily mean clinical success.

"Theoretically, knocking out relevant genes could be a solution for organ rejection from human bodies, but we have to admit the fact that animals and humans are different, and the success on monkeys does not necessarily ensure success on humans," said Doctor Ding Yitao at the Nanjing Gulou Hospital.

By People's Daily Online

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