Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Mayo researchers observe genetic fusion of human, animal cells -may help explain origin of AIDS


Mayo Clinic genomics researchers are the first to demonstrate that mixing of genetic material can occur naturally, in a living body. The researchers have discovered conditions in which pig cells and human cells can fuse together in the body to yield hybrid cells that contain genetic material from both species and carry a swine virus similar to HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) that can infect normal human cells.

While the research does not answer the question of whether this infection can cause actual disease in humans, it does provide scientists with a new way to understand how viral infections can pass from animals to humans.

"What we found was completely unexpected," says Jeffrey Platt, M.D., director of the Mayo Clinic Transplantation Biology Program. "This observation helps explain how a retrovirus can jump from one species to another -- and that may speed discovery about the origin of diseases such as AIDS and SARS. The discovery also may help explain how cells in the circulation may become part of the solid tissue." The Mayo Clinic research appears in the online Express edition of the FASEB Journal. ( published by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. The print article will appear in the March issue of the journal (volume 18, issue 3).

Known as "zoonosis or zoonotic infection," the movement of an infectious agent between animals and humans is of intense interest to those who study public health, infectious diseases, immunology and transplantation. Some viruses, such as influenza, are well known to pass from one species to another. Other viruses do not appear to easily cross species -- and yet do so under rare, unknown circumstances.

Scientists want to know how and why viruses cross species because zoonosis may underlie some of the most devastating diseases. For example, researchers have long believed the HIV virus that causes AIDS in humans originated in wild primate populations and crossed into humans a few decades ago. More recently, scientists have thought that the coronavirus responsible for SARS crossed into humans from wild animals such as the palm civet cats of Asia.

A Possible New Model for Understanding AIDS

In the research reported today, Mayo Clinic investigators implanted human blood stem cells into fetal pigs. The pigs look and behave like normal pigs. But cellular analysis shows they have some human blood cells, as well as some cells that are hybrids -- part human, part pig -- in their blood, and in some of their organs. Molecular examination shows the hybrid cells have one nucleus with genetic materials from both the human and the pig. Importantly, the hybrid cells were found to have the porcine endogenous retrovirus, a distant cousin of HIV, and to be able to transmit that virus to uninfected human cells.

Background: What Led to This Research?

The Mayo Clinic research team has long been interested -- and is a world leader -- in xenotransplantation (ZEE-no-transplantation). This is an experimental field within transplant biology in which specially bred and raised pigs might eventually become donors for humans to meet the drastic shortage of suitable donor organs. Worldwide, thousands of people suffer failure of such organs as the liver, kidney, heart, lung and pancreas and require transplants -- but face death due to shortage of suitable donor organs. Xenotransplantation is just one experimental avenue being explored as a way to meet this shortage.

One central concern of investigators is the potential for zoonotic transmission of disease when an animal organ is surgically implanted into a human. One virus of concern is the porcine endogenous retrovirus, which is present in all pigs. The current research provided two important discoveries: the virus can pass to human cells in the body and it can be infectious. But whether it can actually cause disease in humans is not yet known.

Says Dr. Platt, "Perhaps this model or one like it can help to answer this question. And perhaps similar models can be used to identify other viruses of concern before outbreaks occur in humans."

The Next Step

The experiment has been repeated a number of times, but it needs to be further scrutinized. "We’re really working hard to figure out how it happened, and what implications it might have beyond the transmission of the one virus we studied," Dr. Platt says.

The research was conducted in the Transplantation Biology Program at Mayo Clinic. In addition to Dr. Platt, the research team consisted of Brenda Ogle, Ph.D., first author of the article, and Marilia Cascalho, M.D., Ph.D., who was in charge of genetics in the study.

Mayo Clinic conducts research in medical genomics in order to improve patient care. Its scientists and clinical investigators strive to turn laboratory discoveries into beneficial therapies as quickly as possible.

Bob Nellis | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht First time-lapse footage of cell activity during limb regeneration
25.10.2016 | eLife

nachricht Phenotype at the push of a button
25.10.2016 | Institut für Pflanzenbiochemie

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Ice shelf vibrations cause unusual waves in Antarctic atmosphere

25.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

Fluorescent holography: Upending the world of biological imaging

25.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Etching Microstructures with Lasers

25.10.2016 | Process Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>