HIGHTOWER: Taking High-Tech Piggies to Market

Time for another voyage [space music] into the Far, Far, Far Out Frontiers of Free Enterprise.Today, Spaceship Hightower takes you on a journey to an exotic junkyard, where you can get all sorts of useful spare parts. But these are not parts for your car, or even for your spaceship -- they're spare parts for you. They are manufactured by PPL Therapeutics of Scotland, the company that became famous a couple of years ago by cloning Dolly the sheep -- the first clone produced from a cell of an adult mammal.Now, PPL Therapeutics has done it again, this time producing five little piggies cloned from the cell of a sow named Destiny. The purpose of this high-tech reproduction: To provide a ready source of transplant organs for us humans. It seems that you and I are closely related to pigs, physiologically speaking, so PPL sees a terrific market in what is called "xenotransplantation" -- the taking of animal parts and transplanting them into people who need a new liver, a heart, a spleen, a snout, or whatever.Destiny's litter is especially exotic, since the pigs not only are identical clones, but also have been genetically tampered with. The cell that was used to produce them was altered in the lab so their organs, once transplanted into a human, would be less likely to be rejected.Not everyone is thrilled with the idea of putting cloned, genetically altered pig parts into people, noting that animal illnesses can cross over to humans. Animal rights activists, on the other hand, deplore the idea of treating pigs as "test tubes with tails." PPL Therapeutics, however, doesn't give a pig's butt about medical or ethical objections, for it calculates that the market for the organs of technological wonder-pigs is about $6 billion a year.This is Jim Hightower saying ... PPL even named one of its piglets dotcom, saying that Wall Street seems to love any company associated with a dotcom.

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