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Pigs Used for Organ Transplants; Nathan Chen is Interviewed about the Russian Skater Doping Case; Biden Eyes Swift Endorsement. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired January 30, 2024 - 08:30   ET



POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Make regulations. You know, many people say, oh, they don't all understand it, and that may be true, but there is more action that can be taken now, is there not?

REP. JOE MORELLE (D-NY): No, there's absolutely more action that can be taken. We've really begun. And I think, look, we'll work with industry partners certainly to develop those standards. But clearly it's going to take the Congress, it's going to take our law enforcement agencies, and it is going to take the private sector to build these safeguards. But then to make sure that they're enforced and that we protect people.

HARLOW: Quick, before we go, a couple other topics because we haven't had you on CNN before, and I'm really glad you're here.

You've got 61 Democratic colleagues in the House who have called for a ceasefire now between Israel and Hamas. I wonder where you are on that. Is it time for a ceasefire?

MORELLE: Well, I think the negotiations that are underway right now - and I understand Hamas military is considering a proposal that's been advanced by Secretary Blinken and others that would create a six-week ceasefire in return for hostages. To me, until you talk about the release of hostages who have been held now since October 7th, there's really no point in having further discussions.


MORELLE: So, I hope those negotiations prove fruitful.

HARLOW: And the response you think the Biden administration should take to Iran given the three U.S. service members who have been killed in these Iran-backed strikes?

MORELLE: Well, there's still got to be a response. I think we all believe that. I think the goal is to try to make sure it's an appropriate response, which doesn't enlarge and escalate the crisis and take away from the work that we need to do to stop the fighting in Gaza and return hostages.

HARLOW: Would that mean you would not be supportive of a strike within Iran proper at this point?

MORELLE: Yes, I mean, I - we'll be guided by our military commanders who make recommendations to us. But from my perspective, striking Iran proper causes real concerns about the escalation of the war. And I don't think that's something people want. But there are other ways to ensure that we respond properly and forcefully.

HARLOW: Congressman Joe Morelle, thank you very much. We'll keep an eye on where your legislation goes, if it gets some traction now. Appreciate you being with us.

MORELLE: Thank you.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: Well, up next, we're going to take you inside a research facility that the public has never seen before but could be central to the future of medicine. Scientists reveal how genetically modified pigs could solve a critical organ shortage crisis.


DR. ROBERT MONTGOMERY, DIRECTOR, NYU LANGONE TRANSPLANT INSTITUTE: We need a sustainable, renewable source of organs from something else other than humans dying.


MONTGOMERY: I think animals are the answer to that.




MATTINGLY: Now to a CNN exclusive. Each day 17 people in the U.S. die waiting to get a new organ. More than 100,000 people are on the nation's transplant waiting list. But what if there was another source of organs beyond humans? CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta got incredible, rare access to a research farm that is hoping to fill the gap with the help of pigs. Yes, pigs.

Sanjay, to ask the very obvious question, could pigs actually be the future of human organ transplants?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, after putting it all together, Phil, I think the answer is yes. And you're about to see why. I mean this is pretty incredible science. There's been a long history of pigs helping with human health. For example, pig valves, for example, being used in hearts. We're talking about something that's far more transformative here, Phil. Possibly changing the way we think about transplantation overall.

Take a look.


GUPTA (voice over): These pigs could one day provide a nearly endless supply of organs to save humans. Kidneys, hearts, livers. It's called xenotransplantation. And what you are watching at this research facility has never been seen by the public before.

MIKE CURTIS, CEO, EGENESIS: We usually try to limit this to only the staff that takes care of the animals. We very rarely let other folks come in.

GUPTA (voice over): Mike Curtis is my guide today. He is CEO of eGenesis. That's a company devoted to raising pigs to try and solve the organ shortage crisis.

CURTIS: Everything's controlled. Like, all of the feed is clean. The water's clean. As you can see, the staff is clean. We try to maintain a very clean environment here.

GUPTA: And I can just point out, that I walked into a room, turned on a filter, essentially cleaned the air for five minutes before I could then go shower. That's why my hair is wet. I've - I've washed myself. I put on everything new here, including underwear, socks, shoes, everything is different, just to be in this room. It gives you an idea of just how clean it is in here and how important that is.

GUPTA (voice over): It's more than I typically do to prep for the operating room. All of it to protect the pigs from us.

GUPTA: I've got to tell you, I did not know what to expect. It's powerful just to be here with these pigs.

CURTIS: These two and those three and the little guy here, they're fully edited. All these pigs can carry a total of 69 edits to their genome.

GUPTA (voice over): That makes them among the most genetically modified mammals on the planet.

GUPTA: How much change has to happen to that pig genome in order for it to actually become more compatible with a human?

CURTIS: Our approach is really three-pronged, where we're trying to reduce the risk of disease transmission from the porsign (ph) donor to human. We're editing in a way that reduces or eliminates rejection. And then we add genes to control rejection.

GUPTA (voice over): They do all of this with the help of Crisper (ph), the gene editing tool that allows scientists to manipulate the cell's DNA, knocking out or adding in genes. In this case, to make a pig's organs more compatible with the human recipient.

CURTIS: To keep the consistency of the genetics, we establish a cell line and use cloning to produce consistent donors. It's akin to what was done with Dolly back in the '90s, cloning.

GUPTA (voice over): It is essentially a modern day assembly line of standardized genetically modified pigs.

CURTIS: We've selected the Yucatan mini pig because fully grown they're about 70 kilos, 150 pounds, right? So their -- the organs are correctly sized for human recipients.

GUPTA: You know, it's kind of amazing, as much as we talk about the really intricate science of gene editing, ultimately, you've got to get the size right.

CURTIS: That's right.

DR. ROBERT MONTGOMERY, TRANSPLANT SURGEON, NYU: Less than 1 percent of the people who die every year die in a way that they could ever even be considered as organ donors. And so even if you optimize everything, there still wouldn't be enough organs.

GUPTA (voice over): Dr. Robert Montgomery is the director of the transplant institute at NYU Langone Health. He's also the recipient of a heart transplant.


MONTGOMERY: I had a heart transplant five years ago. I had seven cardiac arrests and I still wasn't sick enough to be able to draw an organ.

GUPTA (voice over): That experience became a rallying cry for him.

MONTGOMERY: We need a sustainable, renewable source of organs from something else other than humans dying.

GUPTA: Are animals the answer to that?

MONTGOMERY: I think animals are the answer to that.

GUPTA (voice over): Specifically, pigs. Besides the size similarities, pigs also have several piglets with each pregnancy, making them a quickly scalable source of organs. One day you might even see facilities like this all over the country.

MONTGOMERY: We've been doing research on xenotransplantation for decades. Pig organs into monkeys. And doing gene edits. And that work has progressed. But there was still this question of, are those results translatable to a human?

GUPTA: Had we learned everything there was to learn about transplanting these organs into non-human primates?

MONTGOMERY: I think there were diminishing returns.

GUPTA (voice over): The problem was the FDA still wasn't ready to give the green light to transplanting a pig organ into a human being. So Montgomery proposed a provocative idea. What if the first human recipient was brain dead?

MONTGOMERY: Their heart's still beating. They can be maintained on a ventilator. And you can really see what the human response is going to be.

GUPTA (voice over): On September 25, 2021, Montgomery performed the first ever genetically modified pig kidney transplant into a brain dead human. And it worked for 54 hours. But each time they tried, the results got better and better.

MONTGOMERY: We've done this five times. The first four, two kidneys and two hearts, were just for three days. But this last kidney was for two months.

GUPTA (voice over): He and his team shared the findings from their last patient with me.

MONTGOMERY: See that red?


MONTGOMERY: That's hemorrhage.

We did have a mild rejection and we were able to test and make sure that we can treat that, you know, using sort of conventional anti- rejection drugs.

GUPTA (voice over): Then, in January of 2022, for the first time in history, a team at the University of Maryland Medical Center transplanted a genetically modified pig heart into a living human being, someone who was not brain dead. It was allowed by the FDA's compassionate use pathway for experimental treatments. Something used when a patient has no other options left.

CURTIS: Right, a patient imminently facing death. Why wouldn't you try?

GUPTA: But how far are we still to this becoming a reality?

CURTIS: I think for the right patient, we're going to see it in the next couple of years.

GUPTA (voice over): Pigs that could save human lives.

CURTIS: So, these are large whites. These are the sows that we use to do the embryo transfers in.

GUPTA: You know, I never expected to feel like I was immersed in a really scientific sort of place in the middle of a pig barn.

CURTIS: This is the equivalent of five or six Nobel Prize discoveries. Cloning is one of them. The discovery of Crisper is another one. Allotransplantation (ph). All Nobel Prize winning discoveries. We're integrating all of those to make this a reality.


GUPTA: And what you just saw there, as you heard, could become a reality just within the next few years, really providing this endless supply of organs. Look, it's not without its challenges. How much should we be

manipulating the genome of another species?

HARLOW: Uh-huh.

GUPTA: There's ethical questions there. How much should we be relying on animals to save human health? There's ethical questions there as well. We couldn't even tell you where that research facility was because there's so many security concerns around these ethical questions.

But this is happening. And this is changing, I think, the way that we think about transplantation and many aspects of medicine overall. If you need a kidney transplant, yes. But what if you're on dialysis, not necessarily needing a kidney transplant, but if you got one of these organs, that could change your life. So, that's what these scientists are talking about.

HARLOW: Does it also raise a question, Sanjay, of who gets a human transplant and who gets an animal one, right, if the animal ones say don't last as long, for example?

GUPTA: That's a great question, Poppy, and I -- I don't - I don't know the answer to that. But I will tell you this, the goal is ultimately to have these animal organs, these pig organs specifically, be basically the same as human organs in terms of how they genetically are accepted and not rejected by the human body.


MATTINGLY: It's fascinating.


MATTINGLY: Sanjay Gupta, as always, thank you.

GUPTA: You got it.

HARLOW: A new twist overnight in the doping scandal involving a teenage Olympic figure skater. A ruling strips her Russian team of gold and gives America the title.

MATTINGLY: And if you thought you were going to Vegas to see Usher and Taylor Swift at the Super Bowl, think again unless you have a lot of money. Super Bowl ticket prices breaking records, and it's not even close. We'll explain, next.



HARLOW: New this morning, an Olympic doping controversy on the ice ends with a golden finish for Team USA. The International Skating Union says the U.S. will be named the champions in the figure skating team event at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. Yes, that already happened. We'll explain how this is happening now. Russia won but will fall to third place because an independent sport tribunal ruled that 17-year-old Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva broke anti-doping rules before the games and banned her for four years.

MATTINGLY: Now, at the time, she was 15 and tested positive for a heart medication that can boost endurance. That test came to light during the games and raised questions about how Russia and the teams coaches treat and train young athletes.

Joining us now, U.S. figure skater and Olympic champion Nathan Chen.


He was also a member of the 2022 U.S. figure skating team. He's also now the first Olympic skater in the U.S. to win two gold medals in a single Olympics. A little bit belatedly. We discovered that.

We appreciate your time.

Just to start with, Nathan, your response when you -- what did you think when you saw this all play out yesterday?

NATHAN CHEN, U.S. FIGURE SKATER: Yes, I'm just so excited for this team. This team has shown so much dedication throughout their entire career. And I don't know any group of people that deserves this more. So, you know, they've all held themselves incredibly well through this time of indecision and represented themselves and the U.S. as well.

HARLOW: What does it also say about a level playing field?

CHEN: Yes. We competed clean for the entirety of our careers. Every substance that we put in our body is cleared before we even consider actually taking them. Without clean sport, you know, the integrity of the sport is diminishes. Of course there's nuances to the situation. And this decision is certainly a win for a clean sport. However, the fact that this happened at all is a win for no one.


MATTINGLY: Can I ask you, was there a -- was there a thought or a feeling that this may have been occurring? Right, I don't feel like this -- I assume that inside the sport, this stuff isn't happening without people knowing about it before it becomes public, before somebody fails a test, before we reach to this point. Were there always concerns or had there been concerns about this specific type of issue leading up to 2022?

CHEN: To my knowledge -- and I speak for myself -- I was not aware. My focus was on competing, was on performing the best that I could. And again, you know, as for clean sport, in my particular situation, I was just very focused on ensuring that every substance that I put in my body, whether it's, you know, prescription, whether it's Advil, whether it's a supplement, was all cleared before I could take it. And that was my -- my primary concern. Outside of that, I was not aware.

HARLOW: Let's talk about where the sport is going. This weekend Ilia Malinin, I hope I pronounced that right, broke the record for the largest leading margin in the short program at the U.S. championships, went on to win his second straight championship by landing not a double axel, not a triple axel, but a quad axel. Can you just talk about where this sport is going? Because I figure skated at a very low level growing up in Minnesota and it was just triples. And then the men started doing quads. And then it was - was a quad toe loop. But now a quad axel, which is four and a half rotations, right? What does that mean for the sport?

CHEN: It means the sport's going to continue expanding and growing. But we also, you know, have seen so much beautiful skating at the - at the U.S. nationals. So, I'm really excited to see how the sport continues growing. The quad axel is an incredible accomplishment. And we just know that there's no - there's no ceiling. And it's just going to keep growing. And so it's very exciting.

HARLOW: Are we going to see you doing it? You haven't completed since 2022. Are we going to see you back on the ice with a quad axel?

CHEN: Yes, my focus has definitely been on academics currently right now. But I still find myself at the rink and it's always, I think, a good time to find myself back out there. So, you know, we'll see what happens, but right now I'm very excited to see where the sport is going.

MATTINGLY: Well, we congratulate you and your team belated but no less awesome.

Nathan Chen, we appreciate your time. Thanks so much.

CHEN: Awesome. Thanks for having me.

MATTINGLY: Well, inside the re-election campaign strategy from President Biden and how Taylor Swift could help them write the ending of their wildest dreams.


MATTINGLY: We'll explain, next.

HARLOW: Love it.



HARLOW: A live look at Allegiant Stadium in Los Vegas where Super Bowl LVIII will kick off in less than two weeks. Are you excited, Phil?

MATTINGLY: Yes, obviously.

HARLOW: Phil gets to go.


HARLOW: But if you're hoping to get a last minute ticket, you should dip like way into your savings or beyond. Right now the average resale price for a single ticket, $9,800. $9,800. Up 70 percent from last year according to the ticket website TickPick. At last check, the cheapest available seat would run you $8,300.

MATTINGLY: That's Harry Enten like money.

HARLOW: Money.

MATTINGLY: Now, someone who doesn't have to worry about ticket prices for the game, not just Harry Enten, who we will shortly introduce, but also Taylor Swift. It's widely assumed she'll make the 17-hour trip from Tokyo to Vegas to see the game after her concert. Her support for boyfriend Travis Kelce is now sparking some bonkers conspiracy theories.

HARLOW: The latest to gain traction surrounds Swift, the NFL, the White House, all conspiring to get Biden re-elected. Did we mention that is a conspiracy theory. But "The New York Times" is reporting the Biden campaign is targeting celebrities and social media stars for potential endorsements. And, of course, Swift, at the top of their wish list.

CNN's senior data reporter Harry Enten with us this morning.

That was a big windup to all the interesting things you're going to tell us.

How much influence does she have?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: Yes, how much influence does Taylor Swift have? I just want to point out, Taylor Swift is really popular among all voters. Her favorable rating is 70 percent. Among independents, those in the middle, 66 percent.

But I want to focus in on those 18 to 29-year-olds where she has a favorable rating of 72 percent. Why am I focusing in on that group? The reason why is that Joe Biden is really struggling among this group. All right, this is the Biden versus Trump margin. Among those 18 to 29-year-olds, back in 2020, Joe Biden won this group overwhelmingly, look at this, by a 24 point margin. Now look at that margin. It's down to just 2 points. It's one of the worst performances that Joe Biden has in the polls right now relative to what he had back in 2020. And Taylor Swift was very popular amongst that group.

MATTINGLY: Can I ask you, Senator Phil Bredesen can underscore the scale of the influence - oh, wait, no, he lost.


MATTINGLY: Explain Taylor Swift's prior involvement in politics, which she's talked about.

ENTEN: Yes, she is - she has absolutely talked about it. And I will note that if we look back - OK, Marsha Blackburn won that race. That was Phil Bredesen's opponent back in 2018, right? Blackburn won that race in Tennessee. But, nationally, new registrations, Swift may have driven in 2018 when she called for a call to action. She may have driven over 30,000 new voter registrations back in 2018. And keep in mind this, she has 280 million followers (INAUDIBLE) followers (INAUDIBLE) important because I want you to take a look here.

Again, 18 to 29 year olds, where do they get their news from, at least some times? Well, television, which we're on right now, just 41 percent.


But look at social media. This is where the 18 to 29-year-olds are. Sixty-nine percent sometimes - at least some times get their news from social media. So, I think the idea behind Swift, hey, she's really popular, she has a lot of Instagram followers, let's get her out there focusing in on Joe Biden, saying, go vote for Joe Biden, because she can reach a very large audience where a lot of 18 to 29-year-olds get their news.

MATTINGLY: And the national electorate is very different than the Tennessee electorate.

ENTEN: Tennessee.

MATTINGLY: Even if I kid about that race.

ENTEN: Absolutely. Like, very far to the right. Medium voter. Considerably more towards the center.

MATTINGLY: Fascinating stuff. Harry Enten, as always, my friend, thank you.

ENTEN: Thank you.

MATTINGLY: And "CNN NEWS CENTRAL" starts right now.