Italian researchers have inserted human genes into a strain of pigs using a high-efficiency process that brings transgenic organ transplantation closer to reality.

In a study in today’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers from the University of Milan report mixing pig sperm with human DNA to transfer a gene called decay accelerating factor. They then used the modified sperm to fertilize pig eggs, producing piglets that carried the DAF gene.

“What we obtain at high efficiency and low cost is genetically modified pigs expressing the human protein,” Dr. Marialuisa Lavitrano, first author of the study, told Associated Press.

Step forward

Tests on the piglets showed that some carried the genes in their central organs and would pass them to subsequent generations.

Organs from these animals are still not ready for xenotransplantation, however, because five to seven pig genes need to be silenced to prevent an immune system reaction in humans.

The Italian scientists believe that within two years they will be able to use their process to create animals that meet this criteria. Better Humans

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