The 7th Transgenic Animal Conference held this week in Tahoe, Calif. came to a close today. But not before the “buzz” was felt about the advances in the area of genetic engineering (GE) of pigs for advancing human health. Researchers from Denmark, Germany, Ireland, and the United States astounded the over 100 scientists in the audience with their findings on GE pigs.
GE pigs are successfully being studied that will serve as animal models for human disease, including alzheimers, atherosclerosis, breast cancer, diabetes, and psoriasis. Researchers at BIO member Revivicor Inc., Blacksburg, Va., and at the German institution, the Institute of Farm Animal Genetics in Mariensee, reported that they are successfully producing pigs with up to four transgenes in their genome. And they reported that these pigs are normal functioning, happy pigs in every way.
Further, Revivicor, whose mission is regenerative medicine, noted that using pigs for replacement human cells, tissues and organs is the ONLY near-term solution to the current shortage in human organs and tissues. Their research includes pigs that provide tissues, tendons, bridge livers, and (in the long-term future) heart, kidney and livers for xenotransplantation. These products, due to the genetic engineering of the pigs, have had the protein eliminated that induces the hyper acute rejection, so rejection will not occur in the human recipient patients.
As one researcher stated, “I can create any pig you want.”
And society will be appreciative of the tenacity and resolve of these researchers who realize that GE pigs, which are physiologically so similar to you and me, will make great contributions to humankind one day when the GE pig- derived products are approved by FDA and are available for us to improve our quality of life.
The excitement of this conference will live on! But already the enthusiasm is building for the first-ever industry-led conference on GE animals to be hosted by BIO in late September, 2010. The “BIO Livestock Biotech Summit” promises to provide some cutting edge science and solutions to global issues. But more importantly, it will convene all those skeptics and aggressive adopters who will lay out the challenges to adopting GE animals in agriculture, biomedical and industrial areas. These debates will be very key because it is those folks who are a driving force for the future of the technology. As a leading Chinese researcher noted, “I think the future of GE animals is bright. In China our people want the technology because they want the choice of newly improved foods. And in China, there is 90 percent acceptance of the use of the technology for food production.” Consumer acceptance is paramount and it will be discussed at the BIO Summit.  BIO looks forward to hosting this event next year in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. See you there!