Pig Power: From Livers to Now, Brains?

Today’s New York Times Magazine’s cover story reminded me about an incredibly cool company in Minnesota called Miromatrix Medical Inc.

Three years ago I wrote a cover story about it, starting out along the lines of next time you enjoy a pulled pork sandwich or a perfectly prepared slice of bacon, you might want to say, “thank you” to what you’re eating.

Possibly as soon as five years from now, pigs may provide us with transplantable livers, hearts, kidneys and lungs that our bodies will not reject. This is due to a revolutionary process invented in Minnesota and being commercialized by Eden Prairie-based Miromatrix. Its work focuses on decellularizing a pig organ and then recellularizing it with human cells–and doing so in a way that “maps” the cells into the right areas within the organ so that it will function properly, and not be rejected, once transplanted into either another animal or a person.

In addition to organ transplants, the process is also being used to develop better treatments for patients who need hernia surgery, chronic wound treatment and more. There’s even a potential cure for diabetes in the mix, eventually, Miromatrix officials say.

Meanwhile, researchers elsewhere are expanding upon the process or using it as inspiration to do even more with pig organs. Yale University, for example, is working on using pig brains to help humans, the subject of the New York Times story I mention above. Its goal is to figure out how to reanimate pig brains with human cells; once successful, they theorize the process could be used to restore activity to dead areas of a human brain.

On a side note, Miromatrix last week spun off a new company called Reprise Biomedical to commercialize medical devices using its proprietary perfusion decellularization technology. The launch is funded through a recent $12.5 million private placement.

Through the spin-off, Miromatrix transferred to Reprise two existing FDA 510(k) cleared, commercially available medical devices – Miromesh and Miroderm – as well as all acellular medical devices in development. Miromatrix plans to now focus nearly all of its attention on developing transplantable organs.