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Researchers Successfully Transplant, Grow Stem Cells In Pigs

Update Date: Jun 05, 2014 11:43 AM EDT

One of the major challenges researchers studying the effectiveness of stem cell therapies face is that hosts reject the transplant or grafts of cells. The rejection leads to delay in life-saving treatments, making it a difficult process. 

Now, scientists at University of Missouri have shown that a new breed of genetically modified pigs will host transplanted cell without any risk of rejection.

"The rejection of transplants and grafts by host bodies is a huge hurdle for medical researchers," said R. Michael Roberts, Curators Professor of Animal Science and Biochemistry and a researcher in the Bond Life Sciences Center, in the press release. "By establishing that these pigs will support transplants without the fear of rejection, we can  move stem cell therapy research forward at a quicker pace."

Researchers implanted human pluripotent stem cells in a special line of pigs who were specifically created with immune systems that allowed them to accept all transplants or grafts without any rejection. 

Once the scientists implanted the cells, the pigs did not reject the stem cells and the cells thrived, the press release added. 

"Many medical researchers prefer conducting studies with pigs because they are more anatomically similar to humans than other animals, such as mice and rats," said Randall Prather, an MU Curators Professor of reproductive physiology, in the press release. "Physically, pigs are much closer to the size and scale of humans than other animals, and they respond to health threats similarly. This means that research in pigs is more likely to have results similar to those in humans for many different tests and treatments."

"Now that we know that human stem cells can thrive in these pigs, a door has been opened for new and exciting research by scientists around the world," Roberts added. "Hopefully this means that we are one step closer to therapies and treatments for a number of debilitating human diseases."

Researchers published their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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