Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Hope comes with A Curly Tail For Those In Need Of Organs

 Hi everyone. I came across this research on a new frontier in genetic engineering and stem cell therapy that I thought was worth a read. See for yourselves!

 I’m sure you all agree that waiting for an organ transplant would be a distressing experience, and for many in need of an organ, it’s a long wait. Although Australia has the highest incidence of successful transplants, we also have the lowest donation rate in the developed world. As of last year, there were approximately 1600 people on Australian organ transplant waiting lists, and this number is on the rise. However this problem may be a thing of the past, as a recent development in genetic engineering has allowed scientists at the Centre for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine at the University of Tokyo to create ‘chimeric’ animals which have organs belonging to another species, through the in vivo injection of pluripotent stem cells (PSC’s), which have the ability to develop into many different cell types, into the embryo (blastocyst) of another species. The ultimate goal of this technique, called blastocyst complementation, is to eventually generate human organs from the induced PSC’s.

For obvious ethical reasons, scientists are unable to modify human blastocysts for this purpose; however the procedure has already seen success in the form of a rat pancreas being grown in mice. Rat PSC’s were injected into mouse blastocysts that had been specifically modified so that they could not grow their own pancreas. The PSC’s grew in the space where the mouse pancreas would have been, developing into a new, fully functional organ. As the mice matured, they showed no sign of diabetes, an exciting prospect for current diabetics – that a potential cure could possibly result from simply replacing the pancreas. Further research extended to livestock, and again there was success when, after injection of blood PSC’s, human blood was grown within a pig. Scientists hope to test the technique further in pigs by generating other organs such as kidneys, and eventually gain the rights to use human stem cells.

Personally, I believe the future of blastocyst complementation will be a bright one. It is a fantastic advance in science that will greatly improve the quality of life for those suffering debilitating conditions such as diabetes, liver and kidney failure. These personal ‘piggy banks’ will also improve the success rate of transplant operations by large proportions by significantly reducing the possible rejection of the organ, as it was created from the patients’ own cells. It is my hope that it will come to abolish organ transplant waiting lists altogether, and with any luck we will begin to see the technique implemented in Australia in the next decade.

If any of you are interested, see the links below for more information. 

The humble swine. The future for organ transplantation?

Development of chimera, and blastocyst complmentation

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