image: BBC NewsThe first successful conversion of pig cells into universally usable stem cells took place at the Shanghai Institute of Biochemistry and Cell Biology under the direction of Dr. Lei Xiao. Dr. Xiao's team extracted the cells from a pig's ear and bone marrow, and found the right chemical cocktail to reprogram the cells into the three layers of cell types that make up embryonic stem cells.
You may have read about the future possibility of transplanting the vital
organs of pigs into humans, because pig organs are
so similar to their human equivalents. But the recent discovery of a
technique to convert adult pig cells into "pluripotent" stem cells will make organ transplants from pigs, and even those from other humans, much more likely to succeed!
If Dr. Xiao's dream comes true, this discovery will not only enable greater acceptance of organ transplants by humans and potentially other animals, but facilitate many treatment and preventative procedures for humans and animals.
Regenerative medicine specialists interviewed by BBC News had mixed reactions to the news. One professor, Chris Mason. at University College London said, "This breakthrough to produce pig stem cells potentially reinvigorates
the quest to grow humanised pig organs such as pancreases for diabetics
and kidneys for chronic renal failure."
But Dr. Sebastien Farnaud, from the HadwenTrust for Humane Research, was naturally concerned: "Persisting with highly speculative research that would see us use
sentient animals as little more that living organ grow-bags, is not
only ethically unsupportable but also scientifically dubious," he said. "Creating
pig stem cells does not necessarily remove the risk of organ rejection
but even more worrying is the risk of infecting patients and the wider
public with pig viruses."
If you would like to read the research report, it is available at the Journal of Biological Chemistry Online.
via BBC News
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