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COLUMBIA, Mo. – The technology to make pig-to-human organ transplants possible was pioneered at Mizzou, according to University of Missouri President Mun Choi. They developed gene-edited knock-out pigs that led to the medical advancement.

Randall Prather, PhD, recently published an op-ed in the Baltimore Sun to outline the decades of research that went into the project. They started with this project in 2001.

“In simple terms, our research showed how to remove — or knock out — a molecule on the surface of a pig’s cell. These “knockouts” affect the genes that control for a variety of traits. To develop the technology’s potential, we began with projects that to some may have seemed silly. Through our genetic engineering research, we showed it’s possible to develop bioluminescence in pigs, basically making them emit a low level of light.”

Randall Prather, PhD – Baltimore Sun

Dr. Prather and his team continue their work as leaders in the field of pig genetics. I’m proud to see them so prominently recognized for their accomplishments and to be part of a culture of innovation that makes the impossible possible,” writes University of Missouri President Choi.

Because of the shortage of human organs donated for transplant, scientists have been trying to figure out how to use animal organs instead. The heart came from a pig that had been genetically modified to make its organs less likely to be rejected by the human body.

The Food and Drug Administration, which oversees such experiments, allowed the surgery under what’s called a “compassionate use” emergency authorization, available when a patient with a life-threatening condition has no other options.