A team of researchers at N.C. State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine have successfully cloned a Duroc pig, and studies of the clone could help prevent a fetal condition among humans.

The N.C. State team, led by Dr. Jorge Piedrahita, is investigating instances of damage to genes during cloning … damage that can also occur naturally.

“The cloning work we did here with pigs showed us that certain genes were dis-regulated or damaged and it showed us that some of those genes (so called ‘imprinted’ genes) could be important to fetal development,” said Piedrahita. “We looked to see if some of the affected genes were imprinted in humans.”

Piedrahita’s group discovered two new imprinted genes that have never been reported before. They tested the top 42 genes affected by imprinting in pigs and discovered that all 42 of those genes are also expressed in human placentas.

Further study of the cloned piglets and their genes could lead to the prevention of intrauterine growth retardation (IUGR), a condition that affects 5-8 percent of all human births in the United States and results in low birth-weight. These children then have a high predisposition to a host of other illnesses and diseases, from heart to diabetes.

N.C. State has established partnerships with Duke University and UNC-Chapel Hill to investigate a possible human health connection. Researchers there will provide normal placental material that will be compared to that of genetic material know to have IUGR. That will help determine if the two newly discovered genes are involved in IUGR.

N.C. State: www.ncsu.edu