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A University of Missouri professor whose work includes producing genetically engineered pigs that may one day contribute to human organ transplants will be a featured speaker during Kansas State University’s Swine Profitability conference on Feb. 7.

Randy Prather is the Curator’s Distinguished Professor in the University of Missouri’s Division of Animal Sciences, and the director of that university’s National Swine Resource and Research Center.

His research includes early embryo development in pigs. He is credited with creating the first transgenic pigs by nuclear transfer and the first gene-targeted pigs that have been used for understanding human disease and improving agricultural productivity.

“The first genetically modified pigs we made were called ‘green pigs,’” Prather said. “If you’ve been to an aquarium and seen jellyfish, you notice that they fluoresce under UV light. We put that same gene into pigs so people can use these cells for tracking studies.”

Prather gave an example of retinal damage in a human eye. In a pig, researchers can repair the damage with stem cells, then turn on UV light and use the fluorescence to know if it’s the stem cells that are responsible for the repairs.

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