ARTICLE: New pig clones born

From: Beat Weber (
Date: Wed Jan 02 2002 - 14:45:51 MST

"This advance provides a near term solution for overcoming the shortage of
human organs for transplants"

David Ayares, PPL

I think that's very good news to inform the public about the pros of


Wednesday, 2 January, 2002, 18:54 GMT
New pig clones born

A biopharmaceutical company that helped clone Dolly the Sheep has produced
new cloned pigs.

PPL Therapeutics says the pigs, which partially lack a specific gene, are a
major step towards using animal organs for human transplants.

The female piglets were born on Christmas Day in the United States.

They have been named Noel, Angel, Star, Joy and Mary.

The pigs are not the first to be cloned.

But PPL, a commercial offshoot of the Roslin Institute in Scotland, says the
pigs are the first to be engineered in a way that should prevent their
tissues being rejected by the human body.

The animals' biological make-up is slightly different from ordinary pigs.

'Near term' solution

A specific gene, which makes the human body reject pig organs, has been
knocked out.

PPL says that it intends to use the pigs as part of its programme to seek a
cure for humans suffering from diabetes.

Dr David Ayares, Vice-President of Research at PPL's US division said the
birth of the pigs was a critical milestone in the company's xenograft

"This advance provides a near term solution for overcoming the shortage of
human organs for transplants as well as insulin-producing cells to cure
diabetes," Dr Ayares said in a statement.

The news was given a cautious welcome by the Society, Religion and
Technology Project of the Church of Scotland.

Safety concerns

Dr Donald Bruce said the disabling of a gene that would otherwise cause the
rejection of a pig organ by the human body might, potentially, be ethically
acceptable in the context of xenotransplantation but only if a number of
conditions were fulfilled.

"The prospect of using pig organs to save many human lives, or to improve
substantially the quality of life of dialysis patients or diabetics, is
attractive from the viewpoint of human medicine," he said.

"But it raises serious ethical issues over the use of animals and a major
question of safety."

PPL was the first to clone pigs in spring 2000. In April 2001, PPL said that
it had produced gene-altered, or transgenic, pig clones.

The pigs had had a foreign gene added to the cells from which they were

A month later an Australian company, BresaGen Ltd, said it had also produced
a cloned pig using a different technology.

Potential obstacles

Pigs are thought to be the most suitable animals for providing organs for
transplant into humans.

A pig's heart is about the same size and has about the same power output as
a human heart.

Furthermore, scientists understand the steps they need to take to
genetically modify pig tissue so that it will not be rejected by the human
immune system.

However, there are a number of major problems to be overcome.

They include the theoretical risk that pig viruses might jump into humans
and cause new diseases.

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