Genetically Modified Pigs Created for Organ Transplants; Research Team Plans Clinical Study as Early as Fall 2025

Courtesy of PorMedTec Co.
An ultrasound of a pig fetus

Genetically modified pigs have been created for the purpose of performing organ transplants into humans, a research team announced Tuesday.

An immunity-related gene was modified to prevent a strong rejection when the pigs’ organs are transplanted into humans, a process called “xenotransplantation.” The team — which includes PorMedTec Co., a startup company from Meiji University — plans to conduct a clinical study on xenotransplantation in cooperation with Japanese medical institutions as early as fall 2025.

Transplants from animals to people are increasingly attracting attention amid a shortage of organs. PorMedTec imported pig cells developed for xenotransplantation by the U.S. biotech company eGenesis. The pig cells were genetically engineered to make them less prone to rejection.

The research team injected the nuclei of these cells into the eggs of a normal pig, then transplanted 100 of the egss into the uterus of a female pig. The team took out three baby pigs by C-section on Sunday. All the baby pigs are said to be in good condition.

The team plans to increase the number of pigs for its research and proceed with studying the xenotransplantation of porcine organs into lab monkeys.

They also aim to conduct a clinical study on human patients with severe kidney and liver failure around next fall. Professor Hiroshi Nagashima of Meiji University, a founder of PorMedTec, said they wanted to offer new treatment methods as soon as possible. He also expressed his hope to deepen discussions on rules for the hygienic management of such pigs.

Last year, eGenesis published a research paper showing that monkeys transplanted with genetically engineered pig kidneys survived for up to two years or more. Also last month, the company announced that a pig liver had been connected to the body of a human brain-dead donor and circulated blood for three days.

eGenesis is now preparing to conduct clinical trials in the United States.