Genetically Modified Organisms as Future Organ Donors

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My chosen stakeholder is Dr. Luhan Yang who co-founded with George Church the company eGenesis in 2015, where she is the current chief scientific officer. Dr. Yang obtained a dual bachelors in Biology and Psychology from Peking University and her PhD in Translational Medicine and Human Biology from Harvard Medical School. My chosen stakeholder is an important addition to this debate because her company specifically focuses on using CRISPR/Cas9 technology to create safe transplantable organs. Dr. Yang is known for developing the CRISPR/Cas9 technology in order to use it in mammal cells. Her company focuses on using CRISPR/Cas9 with pigs. One of Yang’s greatest achievements came in 2015 when she and colleagues used CRISPR technology to remove 62 genes from the pig’s kidney cells to inactivate the endoviruses that could have possibly prevented them from using the pigs as future organ donors (Niu D. et al. 2017). Yang and her colleagues are now focusing on how to get the genetically altered mothers to produce healthy babies. The first offspring consisting of 37 pigs were discovered to not have PERV, leading Yang and her team to becoming the first company to have healthy, PERV free piglets. However, only 15 of the piglets have survived. The surviving piglets are still a success, which is a giant step for Yang and her team because they could possibly be used for xenotransplantation.

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Yang’s input will be important to the debate because she specifically and directly works with CRISPR and genetically altered pigs. She has first-hand experience with creating genetically modified organisms that could be used in the future as organ donors. Her company is also working on getting human genes into the pig organs. They are testing the pigs by adding into them 12 different human genes, including one that would “protect the pig organs from being attacked by the immune system of a human” (Begley S. 2017). Unfortunately, the embryos with these new human genes either miscarried or died, so the eGenesis team still has a long way to go. Yang’s perspective is different from other stakeholders because her achievements offer insight into the beginnings of xenotransplantation. Her work with inactivating PERV genes was the first of its kind, as no one had ever been able to cut out 62 at once, which still stands as a record. Yang’s accomplishments are important because they are leading the way in the field of CRISPR technology. Currently Yang and her team are continuing to test the organs from PERV free pigs to make sure they are safe so that they can soon move into clinical testing. With each passing day, Yang and her team at eGenesis are inching closer to perfecting the use of CRISPR technology, which can then lead to the perfection of xenotransplantation.

My stakeholder, Dr. Yang, will assert three main points during the debate on genetically modified organisms being used as organ donors. The most important three will be (1) that the future of transplantation is “designer pigs” (2) that inserting human genes into the pig cell is imperative and (3) that ethical issues should not stop someone from getting a pig organ or dying. Yang calls her pigs “designer pigs,” because they have been edited in order to meet the needs of humans. The designer part comes from the hands of a scientist, as they are, essentially, “designing” the pig to carry what they want, which is PERV free genes. It is also important to insert some human genes into the pig cells in order for their organs to be more compatible for the human immune system. As previously mentioned, Yang and her colleagues have yet to see success from this work, indicating there is still more testing that needs to be completed. The last point that Yang will offer is that getting an organ from a transgenic animal is a personal choice. Opposing views should not stop others from participating in xenotransplantation. Yang has spent a majority of her life focusing on CRISPR technology to modify organisms and her experiences allow her to bring pertinent information to the debate.

CRISPR/Cas9 technology is going to transform the world, with eGenesis at the helm. While this debate will focus on its use for modifying organisms, the technology can be tested so that it can be used for other things. Something that is very interesting is that it could be used in trying to bring back extinct species. Dr. Yang’s mentor, George Church, is also involved with a team trying to bring back the wooly mammoth. While research and testing may go on for who knows how long, Yang and eGenesis have continued to lead the way. Yang has been involved with CRISPR technology for almost fifteen years and she continues to surprise the scientific world. With each first she has had, both in college and with her company, Yang has changed the game.

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Genetically Modified Organisms As Future Organ Donors. (2022, Apr 09). Retrieved December 4, 2022 , from
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