US FDA approves first-of-its-kind IGA in line of domestic pigs

Alteration intended to eliminate alpha-gal sugar on the surface of pigs' cells

Image source: Shutterstock

Image source: Shutterstock

The US Food and Drug Administration has recently approved a first-of-its-kind intentional genomic alteration (IGA) in a line of domestic pigs, referred to as GalSafe pigs, which may be used for food or human therapeutics. This is the first IGA in an animal that the FDA has approved for both human food consumption and as a source for potential therapeutic uses. The IGA in GalSafe pigs is intended to eliminate alpha-gal sugar on the surface of the pigs' cells. People with Alpha-gal syndrome (AGS) may have mild to severe allergic reactions to alpha-gal sugar found in red meat (e.g., beef, pork, and lamb).

GalSafe pigs may potentially provide a source of porcine-based materials to produce human medical products that are free of detectable alpha-gal sugar. For example, GalSafe pigs could potentially be used as a source of medical products, such as the blood-thinning drug heparin, free of detectable alpha-gal sugar. Tissues and organs from GalSafe pigs could potentially address the issue of immune rejection in patients receiving xenotransplants, as alpha-gal sugar is believed to be a cause of rejection in patients.

As part of its review, the FDA analyzed the potential impact that the approval of the IGA in GalSafe pigs would have on the US environment and determined it is no greater than from conventional pigs. The conditions under which GalSafe pigs will be kept are far more stringent than those for conventionally farmed pigs. Additionally, no animal safety concerns were noted for GalSafe pigs beyond those that would be expected in well-managed, commercial swine operations.

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