Genome pioneer J. Craig Venter is teaming up with a unit of United Therapeutics Corp to develop pig lungs that have been genetically altered to be compatible with humans, a feat that, if successful, could address the urgent need for transplant organs for people with end-stage lung disease.
Venter's privately held company Synthetic Genomics Inc on Tuesday said it has entered a multiyear deal with United Therapeutics' Lung Biotechnology Inc to develop the so-called humanized pig organs.
Humans, pigs and most other mammals share about 90 percent of the same genes. What Venter's team will do is to determine which aspects of the pig genome need to be altered to make porcine lungs compatible with humans, avoiding the rejection response that occurs even in human-to-human transplants.
"We're going to start with generating a brand new super-accurate sequence of the pig genome, and then go through in detail and compare it to the human genome," Venter, the founder and chief executive of Synthetic Genomics Inc, stated recently.
"The goal is to go in and edit, and where necessary, rewrite using our synthetic genomic tools, the pig genes that seem to be associated with immune responses," said Venter, who is best known for his role in mapping the human genome over a decade ago and who created synthetic life in 2010.
"We want to get it so there is no acute or chronic rejection," he said.
Venter's team is tasked with editing and rewriting the pig genome and providing the United Therapeutics group with a series of altered cells. United Therapeutics will take those cells and transplant them into pig eggs, generating embryos that develop and are born with humanized lungs.
If all goes well, Venter thinks his team will be able to deliver the cells in a few years. Testing the humanized organs in clinical trials to ensure they are safe in people will take many more years.
Via Ray and Terry's