BEIJING, June 5 (UPI) -- Scientists in China say they've "reprogrammed" skin cells from adult pigs to behave like stem cells from humans.
Engineering cells in pigs provides a way to access the potential of embryonic stem cells without the ethical problems associated with the use of human stem cells, researchers at the South China Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine said Friday.
The physiology of a pig is similar to humans and pigs have a longer lifespan than the mice traditionally used in clinical trials, said Duanquing Pei, who led the research.
The research group generated its line of "reprogrammed" cells from a miniature Tibetan pig, which would be easier to breed and maintain than larger breeds of pigs, Pei said.
Pigs already play an important role in human science through the use of pig insulin to treat diabetes and the use of pig heart valves in transplant surgery.