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How New Zealand's pesky pigs turned into cash cows

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In the late 1990s, a London-based research team Confirmed that, at least in a laboratory setting, PERVs can infect human cells.

The discovery “killed xenotransplantation” for a time, said Björn Petersen, a xenotransplantation researcher at the Friedrich Löffler Institute, the German government’s animal-disease research center. “Pharmaceutical companies withdraw their money from research.”

Around the world, pigs were being hunted that were as disease-free as possible.

In 1998, Diatranz Partner Olga Garkavenko turned on her radio and got wind of Invercargill’s new arrival. He decided to investigate.

The company took tissue samples from the quarantined pigs for analysis. It seems that the harsh conditions of the islands were tough for disease.

“They stayed isolated and so they were free from a lot of the common infections that you get in pigs,” Tan said. “The pigs that were weak were probably wiped out. Only the fittest survived.

Pigs also have an unusually low number of retrovirus copies in their genome. Peterson noted that the population is also completely free of a type of PERV called PERV-C, which may pose the greatest risk to human transplant recipients. This was possible “because they were isolated for a long time and never had contact with other pigs.”

Joachim Denner, a xenotransplantation researcher at the Free University of Berlin, said Auckland Island pigs had another major advantage over other pig breeds – their small stature. Weighing in at about 90 pounds, he said, “they are the right size for implants.” A domestic pig weighs 300 to 700 pounds and has very large limbs, he said.

In 2004, Elliott, Tan, and others founded a company called Living Cell Technologies, or LCT, which absorbed Diatranz and took care of the pigs, building an expensive facility near Invercargill to selectively breed them. Can be kept in medical-grade isolation. Breed for xenotransplantation.

The animals placed in quarantine were suddenly reputed to be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, much to the barely concealed glee of then-Mayor Shadbolt.

The project brought jobs and millions of dollars of investment to Invercargill. Shadbolt said in 2008, “It has all come to fruition.” Otago Daily Times Article. “I rub it into the people who didn’t support me at every opportunity.”

As of 2010, Concerns surrounding PERVs were waning, as several clinical trials Cell transplants suggested that not only pig cells can be effective in the treatment of diabetes, but also that PERVs were not going to be passed on to humans. New gene-editing techniques also meant that retrovirus genes could be rendered non-functional before an animal was born.

With these advances, the race to successfully transplant pig organs into humans has gained momentum. Group Pigs are now bred for this purpose all over the world. It’s Big Business – Lately reports It is estimated that the global xenotransplantation market could be worth $24.5 billion by 2029.

In January 2022, a University of Maryland group, using a pig organ from the American company Revivicor, first successful Porcine heart transplantation in a living patient. The patient survived for two months. While his cause of death is still under investigation, evidence of a disease called porcine cytomegalovirus was found during the autopsy. Tan said the pig used in the transplant would have been rigorously screened for the virus, which, he said, shows the importance of breeding pigs that are truly free of such diseases.