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[IP] Technique offers transplant hope

   Monday, 21 October, 2002, 21:23 GMT 22:23 UK
*Technique offers transplant hope*

Pigs are the closest creatures genetically to humans
Changes in sperm engineering have allowed scientists to dramatically 
reduce the chances of transplanted pig organs being rejected by human 

A new technique suggests the success rate could be improved from 4% to 
88%, according to the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of 

Until now researchers have relied on injecting a human gene into 
fertilised pig eggs to create animals whose organs can be harvested for 
use by humans.

The possibility of generating transgenic pigs efficiently and 
reproducibly will... be an advantage for creating multitransgene pig 
donor animals

Marialuisa Lavitrano

But too often the animals fail to pick up the human gene and the organs 
have only been successful in 4% of cases.

But a team led by Marialuisa Lavitrano, at the University of 
Milano-Bicocca in Italy, have found that by modifying the DNA in pig 
sperm, rather than in the eggs, they can dramatically reduce the chances 
of organs being rejected.

Of 93 piglets produced from the treated sperm, 57% had the human gene in 
their organs.

When two unsuccessful fertilisations were excluded from the total of 
eight carried out, the success rate rose as high as 88%.

Furthermore the gene, called hDAF, was functional in multiple organs, 
including the heart, lung and kidney.

Laboratory tests showed that pig cells with the human protein produced 
by the gene were resistant to attack by the human immune system.

Ms Lavitrano's team had previously demonstrated the technique, 
sperm-mediated gene transfer (SMGT), on mice.

*'High efficiency'*

They wrote: "The pig is the most likely donor animal for 
xenotransplantation of organs, but may well require multiple transgenes 
to be a satisfactory donor for humans.

"Given the high efficiency of transgenesis, SMGT could greatly 
facilitate the production of such pigs."

The scientists made use of sperm's ability naturally to pick up DNA from 
the environment.

Fresh pig sperm was incubated in a medium that contained the human DNA.

The sperm naturally incorporated the human gene, which was then passed 
on to offspring after fertilisation.

The researchers added: "The possibility of generating transgenic pigs 
efficiently and reproducibly will, hopefully, not only be an advantage 
for creating multitransgene pig donor animals, but also enable 
strategies to fulfil many of the promises originally expected from the 
introduction of transgenic livestock."

*See also:*

02 Jan 02 | Science/Nature
New pig clones born <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/1738730.stm>
29 Dec 01 | Health
Goats may provide malaria vaccine 
09 Jun 02 | Science/Nature
UK 'needs GM research animals' 
*Internet links:*

University of Milano-Bicocca <http://www.unimib.it/>

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites
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