Startup company eGenesis is planning on using the CRISPR gene-editing tool to modify pigs so that their organs may be more easily transplanted into people, Technology Review reports.
The idea of such xenotransplantation has around for decades, but actually performing it has been hampered by the fear of extreme immune reactions as well as of transferring infectious diseases between species. But, eGenesis, a spinout from George Church's lab at Harvard Medical School, wants to edit the pig genome to remove the parts to which the human immune system reacts, according to Tech Review.
So far, it notes that the company's work has been limited to pig cells. In parallel, eGenesis is working on developing humanized pig cells and cells from which viruses have been eliminated. Company cofounder Luhan Yang tells Tech Review that the two cell types then will be merged, injected into an egg, and transferred into a surrogate sow to develop into a pig.
However, Tech Review adds that "[b]efore any person receives a CRISPR-ized pig organ there will be years of negotiations with regulators, close work with transplant surgeons, and costly experiments putting pig organs in monkeys."