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Gene editing creates virus-free piglets

Advance moves the animals one step closer to becoming organ donors for people

2:00pm, August 10, 2017
piglets lacking PERVs

THREE LITTLE PIGS  Researchers are working to create pigs that can donate organs for human transplant. These piglets are part of the first litter of pigs engineered to lack viruses called PERVs.

Pigs are a step closer to becoming organ donors for people.

Researchers used molecular scissors known as CRISPR/Cas9 to snip embedded viruses out of pig DNA. Removing the viruses — called porcine endogenous retroviruses, or PERVs — creates piglets that can’t pass the viruses on to transplant recipients, geneticist Luhan Yang and colleagues report online August 10 in Science.

Yang, a cofounder of eGenesis in Cambridge, Mass., and colleagues had previously sliced 62 PERVs at a time from pig cells grown in the lab (SN: 11/14/15, p. 6). Many of the embedded viruses are already damaged and can’t make copies of themselves to pass on an infection. So in the new study, the researchers removed just 25 viruses that were still capable of infecting other cells.

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