It might be possible to transplant embryonic stem cells from pigs into humans to grow new organs, a new study shows.
The idea is not new. For more than two decades, scientists have pointed to the potential of embryonic pig tissues as a source for organ transplantation.
Studies in the past, however, have had little success when tissue has been taken relatively late in a pig embryo’s development.
The new study shows that, for the transplantation to be successful, the stem cells need to come from specific stages of an embryo’s development.
“By implantation of pig embryonic tissues into immune-deficient mice, we have now determined for the first time distinct gestational time windows for the growth of transplanted pig embryonic liver, pancreas, and lung precursor tissue into functioning tissue,” said Yair Reisner, a professor in the department of immunology at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel.
Using pig tissue to replace failing human organs could help patients with diseases such as diabetes, Parkinson’s, and liver failure.