Transplant xenophilia

How CRISPR/Cas9 could put porcine xenotransplants back on the map

Advances in genome editing could put the use of pig organs in human transplantation back on the map, according to researchers at Harvard Medical School who believe they have quashed the concern that the animals' endogenous retroviruses could present a serious safety threat. The group, led by prominent geneticist George Church, developed a CRISPR-based approach for eliminating the pathogenic factors from the pig cells used in transplants and has co-founded eGenesis Inc. to commercialize the technology.

While xenotransplantation was all the rage in the late 1990s and produced a spate of newcos, fears that pig endogenous retroviruses (PERVs) would be transmitted to humans caused most companies and researchers to exit the field.

"There was a great hype, but it died down

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