The use of pig organs and tissues as alternative source for human transplantation has been studied for a long time in order to reduce waiting times for transplantation. However, there is a lot of concern about the widespread application of xenotransplantation, due to the potential risk of transmission of infections from animal tissues to human recipients. In particular, there is concern about pig endogenous retroviruses (PERV) after the demonstration of their in vitro transmission to human cells (Patience et al., 1997). Despite this finding, and lack of PERV infection evidence following injection or employment of pig organs or cells in humans, the widespread application of xenotransplantation is related to an improved knowledge of retrovirus characteristics. Three classes of PERVs, referred to as A, B and C, can be typed on the basis of their variability in the env gene which is also responsible for the host spectrum range. Previous investigations carried out in our laboratory have shown that all our pig cell lines were infected by PERV. Furthermore, this infection was detected in primary cells prepared from tissues of either domestic or feral pigs. It has also been demonstrated that the infection could be transmitted from some pig cell lines to human cells (Soncini et al., 2001) according to previous data (Le Tissier et al., 1997). The purpose of this study was to identify the endogenous retrovirus classes of the infected pig cells, together with the evaluation of the potential tumorigenicity displayed by some cell types and the ability of some retroviral compounds to inhibit virus synthesis.
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