Pig cells soon to treat Parkinson’s
TRANSPLANTING porcine organs into humans remains a distant hope, but using pig cells to treat conditions like Parkinson’s disease is only a couple of years away, experts say.
Although rejection of pig organs in non-human primates has been limited by genetically modifying pig donors to protect the transplanted tissues, the best organ survival times, around 200 days for a heart, are still low, international transplantation experts wrote in a Lancet review of xenotransplantation.
“The results of preclinical transplantation of pig cells – for example, islets, neuronal cells, hepatocytes or corneas – are much more encouraging than they are for organ transplantation, with survival times greater than one year
in all cases,” the authors said.
They said a European study showed that when pig embryonic neural-precursor cells were introduced into the brains of a Parkinson’s-induced monkey, their locomotor function was greatly improved, although they developed
“If this issue can be resolved, an early clinical trial would seem justified in patients whose disease is refractory to therapies,” they said.
Experimental results of xenotransplantation of pig islets into non-human primates were also encouraging, with a monkey with diabetes surviving for more than a year supported only by pig islets.
The authors said a clinical trial of pig islet transplantation in people with type 1 diabetes was already underway in New Zealand.
“We believe that clinical trials will be justified within the next 2–3 years. No safety concerns that would prohibit such clinical trials have been reported,” they said.
The Lancet 2011; online Oct 21