Thursday, November 02, 2006

In Honor of Haggard: PERVs

PERVs: Porcine Endogenous Retroviruses. hehehehe

This months Journal of Virology has a cool article on pigs version of HERVs:

Porcine endogenous retrovirus integration sites in the human genome: features in common with those of murine leukemia virus.

Im sure its not news to you, but theres an organ shortage in the US. And since George W wont let us clone humans just to harvest their organs (lol!), we have to look other places. Technically our closest primate relatives would be a good choice, but people (including me) think its weird to harvest their organs too. Turns out pigs arent a bad choice! Unless youre Jewish or Muslim... Anyway, even after creating transgenic organs in pigs (pig organ that expresses human proteins, so its less likely to be rejected), there are still more obstacles to cross before they can be a viable solution. One obstacle? PERVs.

PERVs (and ERVs in general in other organisms) are more active than our HERVs. You cant just put a pig liver in someone who is immunocompromised and not expect the 50 identified PERVs to start infecting other cells. Now pig PERvs dont hurt pigs, and human HERVs dont hurt humans... but what if you put a PERV in a human? Its not an ERV anymore-- its a retrovirus. Where is it going to land in the human genome?

These researchers found that when you put PERVS in human cells, they like to insert themselves near transcriptional start sites (right in front of a gene). Just like murine leukemia viruses. Like the MLV that was used in the disastrous gene therapy trials that gave some kids leukemia. Ugh. Crap.

As always, we have 'further avenues of research.'

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