Scientists have created the first human-pig embryo hybrids in a controversial study which they say marks the first step toward growing human organs inside animals.
The pig-human chimeras were created in the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in California and the team responsible also report the creation of mouse–rat and human–cow hybrids
“The ultimate goal is to grow functional and transplantable tissue or organs, but we are far away from that,” Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, who led the project, said. “This is an important first step.”
— Nature News&Comment (@NatureNews) January 26, 2017
Human stem cells were injected into young pig embryos, which were then placed in surrogate cows. Of the more than 2,000 embryos, only 186 turned into chimeras – largely pig, with human elements in 1 out of 10,000 cells.
After 28 days of a pig’s 112-day pregnancy, the pig-humans were removed as scientists say the embryos had developed enough for them to study in what way the cells mix together “without raising ethical concerns about mature chimeric animals,” Izpisua Belmonte said.
As a pig’s gestation period of under four months is so much shorter than that of a human, the two species’ cells develop at different rates, providing a challenge for future chimera experiments.
— The Scientist (@TheScientistLLC) January 26, 2017
Even though a fully developed pig-human being born is a long way away, a chimera with human tissue can be used to study human disease and the differences in organs in differing species.
Despite excitement surrounding the pig-human, concerns have been raised about the ethical implications of mixing human with animal.There is a worry that humanized animals, or animals with human brains could pose a threat to humanity.