Scientists have successfully grown human stem cells in a pig embryo, creating pig-human hybrids, which the researchers describe as interspecies chimeras. The group of scientists published their work on Thursday, Jan. 26, in the prestigious science journal Cell.
While still in the early days, the experiment might one day lead to lab-grown human organs inside of other animals that can be transplanted into those who need them, potentially saving thousands of lives.
The ‘chimera’, or human-animal hybrid, was created by injecting human stem into early-stage pig embryos. These hybrid embryos were then transferred into surrogate sows and allowed to develop until the first trimester.
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 effort involved some 1,500 pig embryos and took four years, far longer than initially estimated, due to the complicated nature of the experiments.
The notion of creating human-animal mixtures has stoked controversy and raised ethical questions, particularly since the experiments could theoretically lead to the creation of animals with human qualities, and possibly intelligence.
Twenty-Two (22) people die every day in the United States waiting for an organ transplant, and a person is added to the waiting list every 10 minutes, Which is why many people think it’s important that this research continues.
No one really has any answers to these ethical questions, which is partly what makes the research seem so scary. In fact, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has previously issued a moratorium on human chimera research, which they say they are in the process of lifting.