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Pigs offer new stem cell source 
Chinese scientists have given cells from adult pigs the ability to turn
into any tissue in the body, just like embryonic stem cells.  
They hope the
breakthrough could aid research into human disease, and the breeding of
animals for organ transplants for humans. 
It may also enable the development of pigs that are resistant to diseases such 
as swine flu. 
The study appears online in the Journal of Molecular Cell Biology. 
“ This breakthrough to produce pig stem cells potentially reinvigorates the 
quest to grow humanised pig organs  ” 
Professor Chris Mason University College London 
Lead researcher Dr Lei Xiao, of the Shanghai Institute of Biochemistry
and Cell Biology, said many other attempts had been made to transform
adult cells from animals such as pigs into "pluripotent" stem cells,
but they had failed. 
He said: "Therefore, it is entirely new, very important
and has a number of applications for both human and animal health." 
Dr Xiao's 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. 
Ideal source  
Dr Xiao said pigs were a potentially ideal source of organs for
transplant, as their organs were similar in function and size to those
found in humans. 
He said reprogrammed stem cells could potentially be
used to make a pig organ compatible to the human immune system,
minimising the risk of rejection. 
The cells could also be used to mimic human disease in
pigs, allowing scientists to test new therapies without requiring human
In addition to medical applications, Dr Xiao said his
discovery could be used to improve animal farming, by making the
animals healthier, and regulating the way they grow. 
However, he warned it could take several years before
some of the potential medical applications of his research could be
used in the clinic. 
Professor Chris Mason, an expert in regenerative
medicine 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. 
"The clinical use of humanised porcine tissues and
organs (xenografts) has moved a long way forward in recent months with
successful small-scale clinical trials. 
"Whilst the xenograft approach may not necessarily be
the long-term solution, it may represent a major step change in the
treatment of organ failure, which potentially could deliver real
benefit to millions of patients within a decade." 
Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2009/06/03 00:21:12 GMT


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