Here, we might see two cute pigs having a lovely time, but biologist Luhan Yang sees otherwise; she sees life-saving organs!
With her remarkable Harvard background in genome-editing and bioengineering, Luhan Yang plans to use CRISPR to create pigs whose organs can be transplanted into people.
With miracles come challenges, which Luhan Yang faces a lot of! Luhan Yang is putting in front of herself the challenging of CRISPR’ing an unprecedented number of genes without being sure of the outcome. There is also the issue of money that needs to be raised.
Astonishingly, in 2015, Luhan Yang and her colleagues used CRISPR to eliminate 62 genes from pig cells that would have been dangerous they had been transplanted into humans. In March of 2017, Luhan Yang and her company, eGenesis, have raised $38 million from investors. These milestones have led Luhan Yang and her team to approach a new step where they get a surrogate mother that becomes pregnant with genetically altered embryos.
As successful as this idea sounds, Luhan Yang and her research team have stumbled upon many problems. One of them being the PERV genes that are interwoven into the genome of pig cells. In order to remove these genes though, the team uses CRISP-Cas9 to remove these genes. With these newly-edited cells, eGenesis ships many of these cells to China where each de-PERV’ed pig cell is fused with a pig ovum whose own DNA has been removed; this ova now contains solely the PERV-free genome. Unfortunately, all has not gone well as there have unfortunately been a lot of miscarriages and not all of the PERV-genes have been removed. Regardless of these setbacks, Luhan Yang is confident that she will make progress with her ideas and will push the limit of genomic technology.
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