Monday, May 23, 2005

Korean researchers take first step in inter-species transplants

pig monkey?

South Korean scientists have discovered ways to prevent monkeys rejecting organ transplants from pigs, paving the way for the use of animal organs and cells in humans, the Korea Times reports.

The ground-breaking research raises new hopes for millions of people needing heart, liver and kidney transplants, the English-language newspaper said.

The study was led by Hwang Woo-Suk, a Seoul National University professor whose team of experts manufactured stem cells by cloning human embryos using human eggs from donors and skin cells from patients.

The stem cell research announced last week marked a step forward in efforts to make it possible one day to transplant healthy cells into humans to replace cells ravaged by illnesses such as Parkinson's and diabetes.

The Korea Times quoted one of Hwang's fellow researchers, identified only as Kim, as saying the researchers are hoping to transplant hearts and insulin-producing cells from cloned miniature pigs into monkeys by the end of the year.

"We have created dozens of pigs embedded with human immunity genes since late last year. We plan to start transplanting their organs or cells into monkeys as early as late this year," Kim said.

The organs of pigs are almost the same in size as those of humans and their metabolic functions are also similar, he added.

Kim said Hwang would first transplant islets of Langerhans, or insulin-producing beta cells, into monkeys. The research team then hopes to transplant pig organs into monkeys.

Story here.

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