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Modified pigs save patients’ bacon

Scientists are for the first time trying to grow a human pancreas inside a pig, in research that could enable the harvesting of human organs for transplant.

A team from the University of California has created a "genetic niche" in the pig’s DNA that will allow them to inject human stem cells into pig embryos.

The researchers hope the resulting foetus will grow a pancreas made almost entirely of human cells.

The work is controversial, however, and last year the main US medical research agency imposed a funding limit because of concerns that the human cells might migrate to developing the foetal pig’s brain, making the animal more human.

Reproductive biologist Pablo Ross, who is leading the research, said: "Our hope is that this pig embryo will develop normally but the pancreas will be made almost exclusively out of human cells and could be compatible with a patient for transplant."


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