humanized-pig-organsChinese researchers have developed a way to convert ordinary pig cells into stem cells. Researchers also claimed that these pig stem cells have the capacity to work like embryonic stem cells. The work was published on-line Wednesday in the newly launched Journal of Molecular Cell Biology.

Embryonic Stem (ES) cells are pluripotent, they are having the potential to differentiate into any of fetal or adult cell type. Because of their plasticity and potentially unlimited capacity for self-renewal, scientists have proposed ES cell therapies for regenerative medicine and tissue replacement after injury or disease.

The Shanghai Institute of Biochemistry and Cell Biology (SIBCB) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences have announced their success story and claimed that this is the first report in the world of the creation of domesticated ungulate pluripotent stem cells.

The research team reprogrammed cells taken from a pig’s ear and bone marrow, using a cocktail of chemicals introduced into the cells via a virus.

Tests showed that the reprogrammed cells were capable of becoming any of the cell types that make up the three layers in a developing embryo.

According to lead researcher Dr. Xiao Lei, heads of the SIBCB stem cell lab

  • As the pig species is significantly similar to humans in its form and function, and the organ dimensions are largely similar, the new research could open the way to create models for human genetic diseases, genetically engineering animals for human organ transplants.
  • Pig pluripotent stem cells would be useful in a number of ways, such as precisely engineering transgenic animals for organ transplantation therapies.
  • It is possible to use embryonic stem cells or induced pluripotent stem cells to modify the immune-related genes in the pig to make the pig organ compatible to the human immune system.
  • The pigs could be bred as organ donors to provide organs that did not trigger adverse reactions from the patient’s own immune system.
  • Pig pluripotent stem cell lines could also be used to create models for human genetic diseases.
  • Scientists can developing pigs that were resistant to diseases such as swine flu.
  • It would be possible to use the pig model to develop therapies to treat the disease like diabetes which are caused by a disorder of gene expression. Scientists could modify the pig gene in the stem cells and generate pigs carrying the same gene disorder
  • It can improve animal farming by modifying the growth-related genes.

Researchers are looking forward to to use the pig iPS cells to generate gene-modified pigs that could provide organs for people, improve the pig species or be used for disease resistance.

Source: BBC