Washington, June 2 (ANI): In a groundbreaking study, Chinese scientists have successfully transformed pig cells into pluripotent stem cells - cells that, like embryonic stem cells, are capable of developing into any type of cell in the body.
The discovery could pave the way for creating models for human genetic diseases, organ transplants, and for developing pigs that are resistant to diseases such as swine flu.
"To date, many efforts have been made to establish ungulate pluripotent embryonic stem cells from early embryos without success," said Dr Lei Xiao, who led the research.
"This is the first report in the world of the creation of domesticated ungulate pluripotent stem cells. Therefore, it is entirely new, very important and has a number of applications for both human and animal health," Xiao added.
Ungulates are several groups of mammals, most of which use the tips of their toes, usually hoofed, to sustain their whole body weight while moving.
Xiao, who heads the stem cell lab at the Shanghai Institute of Biochemistry and Cell Biology (Shanghai, China), and colleagues successfully generated pluripotent stem cells by using transcription factors to reprogramme cells taken from a pig's ear and bone marrow.
After the cocktail of reprogramming factors had been introduced into the cells via a virus, the cells changed and developed in the laboratory into colonies of embryonic-like stem cells.
Dr Xiao said his discovery could also be used to improve animal farming, not only by making the pigs healthier, but also by modifying the growth-related genes to change and improve the way the pigs grow.
The study appears in Journal of Molecular Cell Biology. (ANI)