Further tests confirmed the cells were capable of differentiating into the cell types that make up the three layers in an embryo -- endoderm, mesoderm and ectoderm -- a characteristic of all embryonic stem cells.
The discovery will make it easier for researchers to develop embryonic stem cells from embryos of pigs and other hooved animals, known as ungulates, according to the study.
Although treatments in humans are several years away or more, Xiao said his next research will be using the induced pluripotent cells to generate gene-modified pigs that could provide organs for patients or aid in disease resistance.
The induced pluripotent cells could either be used to transfer an additional bit of genetic material (such as a piece of human DNA) into the pig's genome or to prevent a particular gene from functioning.
"This research is very exciting because it represents the first rigorous demonstration of the establishment of pluripotent stem cell in ungulate species, which will open up interesting opportunities for creating precise, gene-modified animals for research, therapeutic and agricultural purposes," said Dangsheng Li, the journal's editor-in-chief, in the news release.
For more on stem cells, visit the U.S. National Institutes of Health's resource for stem cell research.
-- Jennifer Thomas
SOURCE: Journal of Molecular Cell Biology, news release, June 2, 2009
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