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Pig Organs Could Soon Be Transplanted Into Humans After Major ‘Xenotransplantation’ Breakthrough

As scientists search for additional ways to provide lifesaving organ transplants to humans, they have discovered a “breakthrough” process that allows them to remove viruses from pig DNA, thus paving the way for pig organs to serve as substitutes for human organs. According to The Independent, this technology, which uses something called CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing, could allow them to breed pigs specifically for the purpose of human organ transplants.

If you are the one on an organ transplant list, undoubtedly this is exciting news, and likewise, CRISPR gene-editing technology has been taking the medical world by storm, showing potential for going beyond transplants and treating diseases ranging from cancer to type 2 diabetes. The downside is that this technology has been found to produce unintended mutations. While some of the mutations are likely benign, each mutation has the potential to lead to serious unintended and unexpected consequences.

This has raised concerns that testing CRISPR in humans may be premature, even with CRISPR-Cas9. With CRISPR gene-editing capabilities, three categories of DNA alterations become possible, including tinkering with embryonic DNA, which brings up ethical questions that need answering.

Additionally, you may be surprised to learn that CRISPR and other gene-editing tools are now being used in the food industry. But unlike genetically engineered (GE) foods, which may have genes from other species inserted, there is nothing taken out or added to the plant; the gene is simply changed, or “edited.”

What’s concerning is that foods produced via gene-editing are not subject to regulation by the USDA or other regulatory agencies — although an advisory board advised that gene-edited foods could not be labeled organic.
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