PPL Therapeutics of Edinburgh, Scotland has cloned 5 pigs with ?knock out? genes, meaning that their organs can be transplanted to humans. They were born on Christmas day and are named Noel, Angel, Star, Joy and Mary. They contain special genes prevent the human immune system rejecting their transplanted organs.

PPL cloned the piglets with help from the scientists who cloned Dolly the sheep in 1997.The company has also successfully introduced human DNA into animals such as cows, which then produce proteins in their milk which can be used in human medicine.

The gene that has been ?knocked-out? in the pigs is the alpha 1,3 galactosyl transferase (GT) gene, which makes an enzyme that adds sugar to the surface of cells which is recognized by the human immune system as foreign, and which therefore triggers an immune response leading to rejection by the human patient of the transplanted organ or cell, within minutes. The ability to delete or ?knock-out? this gene provides a vital step in producing pigs with organs and cells that can be used in humans.

PPL thinks the first application of this technology will be the testing of insulin-producing cells for the treatment of diabetes from the ?knock-out? pigs, first in primates, and soon after in humans. Clinical trials could start in as little as four years and analysts believe the market could be worth over $5 billion for solid organs alone, and $6 billion for cellular therapies for Diabetes, Parkinson?s and Alzheimer?s Diseases.

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