Unlike the others, the GalSafe pig has a gene capable of preventing allergies. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States recently gave the green light for this animal. This will be used to produce drugs, but also meat and other allergenic cosmetics. It could also act as a “reservoir” for human organs for transplantation purposes.
Eliminate a troublesome molecule
In 2015, researchers at Havard Medical School (United States) had made enormous progress in the transplantation of organs from pigs into humans. Different countries including China are interested in this kind of “reservoir” for human organs. However, such pigs can also be used to produce drugs and meat, as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states in a December 14, 2020 statement.
The FDA says it has approved United Therapeutics’ GalSafe pig. This has a gene capable of eliminating the presence of galactose-alpha-1, 3-galactose (alphagal), a sugar molecule. This molecule, found in many mammals, but not in humans, can cause allergies in some people. It can also be a source of rejection of animal transplants by the human body.
“The first-ever approval of an animal biotechnology product both for food and as a potential source of biomedical use is a milestone for scientific innovation,” said Stephen M. Hahn, head of the FDA.
Research to continue
The main goal, according to United Therapeutics, is to manufacture allergy-free medical products. It is particularly question of anticoagulants (heparin). Next, society wants to develop organs that are compatible with the human body. In November 2020, United Therapeutics launched a Phase I trial for GalDafe pig skin transplants for severe burns.
Nothing is being done about it yet, but officials also plan to market GalSafe pork. The FDA has certified this meat to be safe for consumption. In contrast, there has been no evaluation of this same meat regarding the prevention of allergies. However, it will be necessary to be patient before seeing this meat arrive on the shelves.
At the moment, an Iowa farm is responsible for raising 25 GalSafe pigs. However, it seems that this animal cannot be produced on a large scale as is the case with usual pigs. Moreover, the alphagal molecule is not the only cause of rejection in transplants. More genetic modifications will surely be necessary before we obtain fully compatible organs between pigs and humans.