Medical Advances Thanks to Animals

In April, Alexion Pharmaceuticals
and Harvard Medical School’s McLean Hospital announced they transplanted
genetically altered pig nerve cells into an animal model of Alzheimer’s
disease (in this case, mice). The mice regained cognitive abilities once
the pig cells were implanted.

“The current test model represents
the most rigorous animal model of Alzheimer’s disease, in which wholesale
loss of cholinergic neurons is associated with highly advanced stages
of the disease,” said Dr. Ole Isacson, associate professor in the Neuroregeneration
Laboratories at McLean Hospital. “Today’s reported findings represent
the first demonstration of functional restoration using transgenic pig
neurons in an animal model of Alzheimer’s.”

Meanwhile, researchers at Genzyme
Transgenic Corp., Tufts University and Louisiana State University announced
in April that they had genetically engineered goats to produce a human
protein used to affect the clotting of blood. The goats were the result
of a cloning experiment, suggesting that someday large numbers of genetically
engineered animals, carrying important drugs for treating human diseases
and medical conditions, may be produced relatively rapidly.

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