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Pigs may hold the key to curing Retinitis Pigmentosa

The potential for developing a new treatment or cure for retinitis pigmentosa may be found through studying genetically modified pigs. Retinitis pigmentosa is the most common inherited retinal disease in the United States and affects about 1 in 4000 Americans. Previously, rodents were used in studies but their eyes lack some vital retinal structures and are much smaller than human eyes. Researchers opted to use miniature pigs rather than their domestic cousins in the study. Miniature pigs only weigh about 150 pounds when mature. Researchers inserted the mutant gene which causes retinitis pigementosa into miniature pig embryos and then transferred the embryos into surrogate sows. The resulting offspring were born with the mutant gene and also displayed classic features of the eye disease. Pleased with the results, researchers say that these pigs will be used to screen the efficacy of various new treatments for the disease.*

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