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Porcine Possibilities

Courtesy of PPL TherapeuticsA new generation of pigs. Headlines in late summer 2000 introduced long-awaited reports on pig cloning and retroviral transmission to mice, pig cells healing rat spinal cords, and a gaff by Dolly dad Ian Wilmut erroneously heralding halt of xenograft work at the Roslin Institute near Edinburgh, Scotland. So it seemed that the question of whether pigs can pass their retroviruses to humans might finally be on the road to resolution. Not quite. Pigs, as the purveyors o

Ricki Lewis

Courtesy of PPL Therapeutics

A new generation of pigs.
Headlines in late summer 2000 introduced long-awaited reports on pig cloning and retroviral transmission to mice, pig cells healing rat spinal cords, and a gaff by Dolly dad Ian Wilmut erroneously heralding halt of xenograft work at the Roslin Institute near Edinburgh, Scotland. So it seemed that the question of whether pigs can pass their retroviruses to humans might finally be on the road to resolution. Not quite.

Pigs, as the purveyors of new influenza strains, do not have a stellar reputation in epidemiological circles. Experiments reveal that porcine endogenous retroviruses (PERVs) nestled in the pig genome can indeed find their way into cells of other species, although they do not seem to do much once there. "Swine fever, hepatitis E, and the Nipah virus have been linked to pigs, however all are exogenous viruses and can be excluded from a...

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