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What are Genetically Modified Pigs?

Shikha Goyal

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a first-of-its-kind intentional genomic alteration (IGA) in a line of domestic pigs which are referred to as GalSafe pigs. They can be used for food or human therapeutics. 

Do you know this is the first IGA animal that has been approved by the FDA for both human food consumption and as a source for potential therapeutic uses? 

About Intentional Genomic Alteration (IGA) 

IGA in animals is making specific changes to the genome of the organism. It is done by using modern technologies that are known as "genome editing". Also, there are other technologies that can be used to make IGAs in animals.  

These types of changes in the DNA sequence of an animal may be used for research purposes and are used to produce healthier meat for the consumption of humans and to study the disease resistance in animals.

IGAs are also used to make an animal more susceptible to certain diseases including cancer. This helps researchers to get a better understanding of the disease and develop new therapies to treat it better.

About Mucormycosis, a rare Fungal Infection

What is the difference between an IGA animal and without an IGA animal?

As per FDA, the main difference between an animal with an IGA and without IGA is that the IGA gives them a new trait or characteristic like faster growth or resistance to certain diseases.

Basically, in an animal, an IGA is inserted to change or alter its structure and function. Also, the FDA makes sure that the IGA contained in the animal must be safe and also safe for anyone who consumes it as a product or food derived from the animal.

Why are pigs called GalSafe pigs?

They are known as GaleSafe pigs because they lack a sugar molecule called alpha-gal. It is normally found in the tissue of some mammals like pigs, cows, and sheep. It is also said that people with a meat allergy called alpha-gal syndrome can develop serious, life-threatening reactions if they are exposed to these molecules. Although people develop this meat allergy after being bitten by certain ticks that have alpha-gal in their saliva.

According to the FDA, "GalSafe pigs could be used as a source of medical products like blood-thinning drug heparin, free detectable alpha-gal sugar. GalSafe pigs, tissues, and organs can also address the issue of immune rejection in patients receiving xenotransplants, as alpha-gal sugar and is believed to be a cause of rejection in patients".

The FDA also evaluated the risk of the IGA to promote the emergence or selection of antimicrobial-resistant bacteria of human health concern in or on GalSafe pigs. 

It is concluded by the FDA that the microbial food safety risk is low and is mitigated by the low number of GalSafe pigs entering the food supply and the ongoing surveillance for antimicrobial resistance, among other factors.

Note: These pigs have not been evaluated for use as xenotransplantation products for transplantation or implantation into human subjects.
The approval has been granted by the FDA of the IGA in GalSafe pigs to Revivicor Inc. 

About FDA

- It is an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that protect the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human veterinary drugs, vaccine and other biological products for human use and medical devices.

- FDA is also responsible for the safety and security of the nation's food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.

Source:fda.gov

Science and Tech Weekly Brief: Important updates from December 21-25, 2020

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