University of São Paulo: USP and Ministry of Science and Technology invest R$ 10 million for the development of organs for transplants


USP and the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MCTI) signed a letter of support that provides for investments of around R$ 10 million in research for the development of compatible organs for transplantation, the so-called xenotransplantation.

Resources from USP and MCTI (each of the institutions will invest R$ 5 million in the project) will be used to fund pig facility activities – a biosafety level two installation – NB2 – for raising swine in adequate sanitary conditions for the production of compatible organs for human transplantation.

The USP initiative is the only one in Latin America focused on research into the production of organs in animals for transplantation into humans. The project is coordinated by Professor Emeritus of the Faculty of Medicine (FM), Silvano Raia, a pioneer in organ transplantation in the country.

For five years, Raia, together with the professor at the Institute of Biosciences (IB) at USP, Mayana Zatz, has been coordinating a project that aims to genetically modify pigs to become organ donors: kidney, heart, skin and cornea. The genetic editing phase is already completed, which allows the production of the first modified embryos, which will be transferred to wild matrices, producing the first donors.

“Xenotransplantation is a breakthrough. In the last 20 years, two million transplants were performed worldwide. There was an increase in demand, but there was no proportional increase in the availability of organs. So, there is a repressed demand, many die waiting for organs and the pigs proved to be the most suitable”, said Raia, during the document signing ceremony, held in the FM Congregation Room.

According to the professor, the resources will allow the construction of the vivarium within six months for the beginning of pre-clinical experiments. “It’s a world that opens up. At USP, we are carrying out research at the frontier of knowledge”, he highlighted.

The secretary of Research and Scientific Training of the MCTI, Marcelo Marcos Morales, stressed that “xenotransplantation presents a promising alternative to face this challenge, which includes suffering for patients and their families, in addition to expressive expenses for the Unified Health System. ”.

The dean of USP, Carlos Gilberto Carlotti Junior, said that “a project like this will trigger not only the transplant itself, but a series of knowledge that will be generated from it. It will certainly have great repercussions in other areas of research”.

Also participating in the event were the director of FM, Tarcisio Eloy Pessoa de Barros Filho; the State Secretary of Health, Jean Gorinchteyn; and the vice-director of the Institute of Biosciences (IB) at USP, Oswaldo Keith Okamoto. The director of Institutional Cooperation of the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq), Maria Zaira Turchi, participated in the ceremony via videoconference direct from Brasília.

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