Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Pig embryo tissue transplants could cure genetic diseases

The Jerusalem Post: Weizmann Institute scientists show how a "window of opportunity" could enable pig embryo tissue transplants to eventually cure genetic diseases.

It doesn't sound kosher, but pig embryo tissue could eventually induce the human body to produce blood-clotting proteins for hemophilia patients and other critical substances to cure disease.

Immunology Prof. Yair Reisner and doctoral student Anna Aronovich of the Weizmann Institute's Immunology Department, together with colleagues, showed how such a transplant could be made feasible in the future. The study was published recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

In hemophilia, a mutated gene prevents the production of a critical blood-clotting protein. Treatments for hemophilia and other such genetic diseases, when they exist, may consist of risky blood transfusions or expensive enzyme replacement therapy. But if the body could be induced to begin producing these proteins by transplanting healthy tissue having the abilities that are lacking, this would constitute a cure.

Previous attempts to treat genetic disease by transplanting (mother to daughter) a spleen, an organ that can manufacture a number of the missing proteins in some such diseases, made little headway because the spleen is home to the immune system's T-cells, which are responsible for the severe immune responses against the recipient known as graft-versus-host disease (GVHD).

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