Home / Health / News Tools: Save | Print | E-mail | Most Read | Comment
Pig cells may hold hope for humans
Adjust font size:

Researchers in Shanghai said yesterday that they have found a way to transform ordinary cells from pigs into powerful stem cells in a move that may have important implications for the treatment of human diseases.

With these stem cells, scientists hope to modify pig genes that are related to the immune system so that the animal's organs may some day be used for people in need of transplants.

In an article published in the Journal of Molecular Cell Biology, the researchers described how they managed to re-program ordinary cells taken from the ear and bone marrow of a 10-week-old pig using a virus.

"The cells changed and developed in the laboratory into colonies of embryonic-like stem cells," wrote the researchers, led by Xiao Lei, who heads the stem cell lab at the Shanghai Institute of Biochemistry and Cell Biology.

Embryonic stem cells are capable of developing into any type of cell in the body.

"The research could open the way to creating models for human genetic diseases, genetically engineering animals for organ transplants for humans and for developing pigs that are resistant to diseases such as swine flu," the researchers said.

Xiao pointed out that many human diseases such as diabetes are caused by a disorder involving gene expression.

Disease therapies

"We could modify the pig gene in the stem cells and generate pigs carrying the same gene disorder so that they would have a similar syndrome to that seen in human patients," he told Xinhua news agency yesterday. "Then it would be possible to use the pig model to develop therapies to treat the disease."

Xiao said the discovery could also be used to improve animal production by making pigs healthier.

He warned, however, that it could take several years before some of the potential medical applications of the research could be put into clinical use.

Commenting on yesterday's announcement, Chris Mason, professor of Regenerative Medicine at University College London, told Reuters the finding could help in the treatment of organ failure.

"This breakthrough to produce pig stem cells potentially reinvigorates the quest to grow humanized pig organs such as pancreases for diabetics and kidneys for chronic renal failure," Mason said.

(Shanghai  Daily June 4, 2009)

Tools: Save | Print | E-mail | Most Read Bookmark and Share
Pet Name
China Archives
Related >>
- Stem cells research shows promise against cancer cells
- Lower belly fat could be excellent source of stem cells
- Researchers find stem cells in heart's surface
- Human stem cells might treat, even cure diabetes