Sunday, October 16, 2016

From California to Spain: Growing Human Organs in Pigs

Juan Carlos Izpisúa Belmonte in Murcia, Spain, in 2015
El Mundo photo
The ongoing tale of pigs, people and their organs moved along during the weekend with a fresh chapter about a Spaniard and the Salk Institute in La Jolla, Ca.

Reporter Bradley Fikes wrote a lengthy piece in the San Diego Union-Tribune dealing with Juan Carlos Izpisúa Belmonte and his quest to grow human organs in pigs.

Izpisúa Belmonte has a lab at Salk and another in Spain. Fikes reported that the researcher received a $2.5 million award from the National Institutes of Health last week "to advance his research with monkey cells implanted into pig embryos."

Fikes wrote,
"Since monkeys are biologically similar to humans, analysis of pig-monkey chimeras should yield insights that can be applied to eventual production of human organs, he said. And unlike mice, pigs are large enough to grow usable human organs."
In Spain, Fikes said, Izpisua Belmonte is forging ahead at the same time with human-pig work.

The research is touchy for obvious reasons. But Fikes wrote that "the shortage of organs that causes nearly two dozen Americans — and many others around the world — to die each day while awaiting a transplant."

Izpisúa Belmonte is making progress, according to the newspaper report. Fikes wrote,
"After years of experiments, in 2015 his team reported success in coaxing a newly identified type of human stem cell to not only live in mouse embryos, but also integrate into the embryos’ structure. Those embryos weren’t allowed to develop further because of U.S. regulations."
Izpisúa Belmonte has received $6.5 million in three awards from the California stem cell agency, but none of those grants are currently active.  
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