Scientists at a Massachusetts-based biotechnology company and their academic research partners reported Wednesday that an engineered breed of miniature pig containing up to 69 genetic changes produced kidneys that functioned well in monkeys for an average of 176 days and in one animal for more than two years. The results, published in Nature, are an encouraging sign that the long-struggling science of xenotransplantation might one day become a medical reality.
For the past five years, researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital, Duke University Medical Center, and the University of Wisconsin have been studying cynomolgus monkeys with CRISPR-edited pig kidneys swapped in for their own. They’re part of a historically large experiment that scientists hope will help develop pig organs safe for transplant into people, about 17 of whom die each day in the United States while waiting for human organs that are in short supply and not equitably distributed.
The pigs are a project of eGenesis, co-founded by renowned Harvard bioengineer George Church and one of his protégés, Luhan Yang, which has been steadily developing technology to produce animals with more and more complicated edits.