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This Week in Science: Aug 11, 2017

In Science this week, an international research team reports using CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing to deactivate a family of retroviruses within the pig genome. While pig organs hold promise for transplant medicine, the potential for porcine endogenous retroviruses (PERVs) to infect other cells represents a key limitation. To address this problem, the scientists demonstrated that PERVs are capable of being transmitted to human cells when they are cultured with porcine cells, then mapped these retroviruses mapped and characterized the PERVs present in the genome of pig fibroblast cells. Using CRISPR, they inactivated all the PERVs in a porcine primary cell line and generated PERV-inactivated pigs via somatic cell nuclear transfer. The work demonstrates "the successful production of PERV-inactivated animals to address the safety concern in clinical xenotransplantation," the researchers write. The Scan has more on this here.

Also in Science, collaborators from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Temple University discuss US attitudes on human genome editing. By analyzing surveys on the topic, the team found that two-thirds of respondents approved of both somatic and germline therapy, and that more people support gene editing for therapeutic purposes versus using the technology for human enhancement. Notably, they also found that people's approval of human gene editing was closely tied to their religious beliefs, with those who report a relatively high level of religious guidance in their daily lives were less likely to give their support. A greater command of the facts about gene editing was also positively associated with support. Overall, the findings our "show a broad mandate for public engagement, even across groups who otherwise differ in their evaluation of potential applications of human genome editing and in their assessment of the scientific community's ability to navigate emerging science independently of public input," the authors conclude. The Scan also has more on this, here.