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Cloned pigs may provide transplant organs

BEIJING, March 23 (UPI) -- Chinese scientists say they expect the first genetically modified cloned piglets with transplantable organs for humans to begin arriving in six months.

"The genetically modified piglets could bring hope to people who are in need of organ transplants but have failed to find a donor," said Zhao Zijian, head of the Metabolic Disease Research Center at Nanjing Medical University in Nanjing, capital of Jiangsu province, China Daily reported Wednesday.

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Since 1998 Zhao's group has been studying the GM technology for replacing a gene in pigs that causes humans to reject transplanted pig organs, the report said, citing Nanjing's Yangtze Evening Post.

The report said Dai Yifan, deputy director of the research center, successfully bred the so-called transplantation-friendly GM pigs in a laboratory in the United States and took the cells back to China earlier this year from which he plans to clone the pigs.

The scientists said the first brood of piglets is expected to be born in five or six months, after which they will undergo additional experiments to check their suitability for heart, kidney and liver donations, the report said.

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