Venter's company Synthetic Genomics said yesterday it had entered a multi-year deal with
The venture is intended to advance
Prior efforts to use animal organs in people in need of a transplant, known as xenotransplantation, have failed because of differences in the genome that caused organ rejection and blood clots.
"Our new collaboration with Synthetic Genomics is huge for accelerating our efforts to cure end-stage lung disease," said
Humans, pigs (and most other mammals) share about 90 percent of the same genes. What Venter's team will do is to determine which aspects of the pig genome need to be altered to make porcine lungs compatible with humans, avoiding the rejection that occurs even in human-to-human transplants.
"We're going to start with generating a brand new super-accurate sequence of the pig genome, and then go through in detail and compare it to the human genome," said Venter.
"The goal is to go in and edit, and where necessary, rewrite using our synthetic genomic tools, the pig genes that seem to be associated with immune responses," he explained. He is best known for his role in mapping the human genome over a decade ago and creating synthetic life in 2010. "We want to get it so there is no acute or chronic rejection."
Venter's team is tasked with editing and rewriting the pig genome and providing the
If all goes well, Venter thinks his team will be able to deliver the cells in a few years. But testing the humanised organs in clinical trials to ensure they are safe in people will take many more years.
Lungs are the hardest organ to transplant because they are so delicate in structure, Venter says.
So, if the team succeeds in developing humanised pig lungs, hearts and kidneys from these animals may also prove to be suitable for human transplantation.
As part of the agreement, Lung Biotechnology will take a
Venter admits that just five years ago, the venture would have sounded like science fiction. But several research teams are working on the use of genetically altered pig body parts to help improve the supply of transplant organs.
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