Posted for David Cyranoski; Cross-posted from The Great Beyond
Researchers in China have made pluripotent stem cells from a pig. The cells could be useful for making humanized pig organs for transplant to humans, pig models of human disease useful for testing drugs, and for improving pig farming productivity and nutritional value.
Lei Xiao, head of the research group at the Shanghai Institutes for Biological Sciences where the research was done, admits that none of these will happen for the next several years. But his creation in pigs of induced pluripotent stem (iPS)-cells which share with embryonic stem cells the ability to differentiate into any cell type in the body-is still a huge accomplishment. (Paper).
The isolation and culture of embryonic stem (ES) cells from mice in 1981 revolutionized the use of mice as a developmental and biomedical research model. But it is a difficult process. It took 17 years to culture human iPS
cells. Even now there are ES cells for only four mammals: mice, humans, monkeys, and rats. Pig ES cells, despite many attempts, still do not exist.