Human-pig hybrid embryo breakthrough
*Chimera opens possibility for ‘designer’ animal organs to be used in people to tackle increasing shortage of organs for transplants
Part human, part pig embryos have been successfully created by scientists for the first time. The embryos, that were grown inside a sow, contained a ‘low’ amount of human tissue.
But it is hoped one day this technique will allow whole organs in the pig to be grown of human cells, to tackle the increasing shortage of organs for transplants. Researchers are interested in growing human tissues and organs in animals by introducing pluripotent human cells into early animal embryos.
Using this method, researchers hope to produce sheep, pigs and cows with human hearts, kidneys, livers, pancreases and possibly other organs that could be used for transplants. It is hoped that one day this technique will allow whole organs in the pig to be grown of human cells, which will not be rejected by the intended recipient’s immune system.
Around the world there is a desperate shortage of organs for transplant.
The ‘chimera’, or human-animal hybrid, was created by injecting human stem cells into pig embryos and then implanting them in a sow. The human stem cells grew and formed part of the tissue of the pig embryos, although they did not become piglets as they were removed at 28 days.
The amount of human tissue that grew in the pig embryos was ‘low’, researchers said.
The first scientifically published report of the creation of a human-pig ‘chimera’ appeared in the scientific journal Cell.
Whole organs comprising entirely of human cells would need to be grown for use in transplantation. But it has been hailed as an important step in the way to the goal of one day growing human organs in pigs or other animals.
The research raises ethical issues. If too much human Deoxy ribonucleic Acid (DNA) is introduced in a pig’s embryo, it could result in a pig with a ‘human brain’ – or a human face although as yet these concerns are a long way from being realised.
Dr. David King, Director of Human Genetics Alert, the secular watchdog group, said: “I find these experiments disturbing.
“In mythology human-animal chimeras were frightening monsters for good reason. I don’t recall these scientists asking for the public’s opinion before going ahead with such experiments. I am concerned that human organs or tissues produced in pigs might carry pig viruses into the human population. The concern about mixing species touches something deep in the human psyche and our culture that is hard to put into words. It is not about some ‘wisdom of nature’, but about the unwisdom of scientists.”
An initial attempt to create a cow-human embryo was abandoned as the research effort was ‘more difficult and costly’.
*Adapted from DailyMailUK Online